Brisbane Lions CEO says real lion at game 'only an idea'
UPDATE: Brisbane Lions CEO Gregg Swann says suggestions of having a real lion at home games next season is 'an idea and only that'.
"There has been a fair amount of hysteria today around the idea of having a real lion at our home games next season.
"Let me be clear in saying it is an idea and only that.
"It is one of a number of initiatives we have discussed as part of planning for the 2015 season, and it has found its way into the media.
"Animal welfare would always be the overwhelming priority in any such idea, but let me stress we are only at a conceptual stage at the moment.
"With the lion set to feature prominently as part of our 2015 marketing campaign, and with the 'old' lion returning to the guernsey next season, we simply asked ourselves whether we might be able to add the "real thing" to a match day experience.
"Given the reaction today, we are mindful that people have strong views and we will take that into consideration as we continue to plan for next season."
AFL fans, animal lovers roar over Lions plan for game day entertainment
SOME AFL fans have reacted angrily to the Brisbane Lions' move to explore using a live lion as pre-match entertainment at Gabba games next season.
The Lions, whose partners include Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast, are speaking to zoos and lion parks - as well as animal welfare groups - to assess whether the club could push ahead with the unique initiative.
Teams have been encouraged by the AFL to follow Port Adelaide's lead and enhance their matchday experience for fans, but supporters have been quick to criticise the Lions' recent effort on social media.
The idea has been described as "disgusting" and "barbaric" by some supporters.
A petition, started by Jordan Lees, from Bendigo, has already attracted more than 750 signatures.
"The problem with this proposal is that is continues a trend of exploiting animals for our amusement,'' the petition said.
"A Lion does not belong on a football field. There are many alternative methods of entertainment that Brisbane Lions may employ to attract more fans to the games.
"Perhaps winning more games would be a good place to start. The cruel and unnecessary exploitation of a wild animal is not, and should not, be one of these methods,'' the petition said.
"Lions are naturally a wild animal and as such must be "trained" to obey their handler.
"Similarly to circus trained animals, violence is the only way to make wild animals submit and do unnatural acts (i.e. parade around in front of thousands of screaming fans).
Training sessions often involve beatings to establish a superiority over the poor lion. Inevitably, this leads to neurotic behavious developing, seeing lions pace back and forth in their enclosure or cage and even sometimes resorting to self-mutilation.
"Please help to show both the AFL and Brisbane Lions that you do not want to attend a game of football that exploits animals to raise revenue.
"A lion is not meant to be locked in a tiny steel cage and be paraded in front of thousands of screaming and gauking fans. It is unnecessary and inappropriate.''
Those opposing the plan were urged to contact the Lions and the AFL on social media.
Lions media manager Steele Tallon tweeted: "In relation to animal rights, we would never do anything to harm a lion. Australia Zoo is one of our partners & match day sponsor this year".