The animal rights organization known as PETA sent a letter to the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday to voice concern over the team's use of live penguins as entertainment during a Stadium Series game at Heinz Field last month, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
In a note addressed to Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals condemned the team's treatment and care of a group of penguins from the Pittsburgh Zoo during the Feb. 25 outdoor game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Social media footage showed penguins "scrambling in terror" as fireworks went off in the stadium during a pregame ceremony.
Everything about this is terrible. pic.twitter.com/RRYJSDaCeh
— m g (@kikkerlaika)February 26, 2017
"It's inherently stressful for wild animals—who naturally shun contact with humans and are extremely sensitive to environmental changes—to be hauled around, used as props, and exposed to noisy crowds, with or without explosives going off. Hockey fans come to see talented athletes compete, not shy animals terrorized," part of the PETA statement read.
The letter ended with a plea from PETA for the club to never again use live animals of any kind for marketing or promotion going forward.
"A noisy arena filled with screaming people and loud fireworks is no place for wild animals. At a time when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has announced that it will close and SeaWorld has ended its orca-breeding program, it has never been clearer that the public does not support the abuse of animals for human entertainment. Will you please let us know that you won't use live animals for promotions in the future?"
Prior to (and during) the game, the penguins—apparently named Crosby, Kessel, Kunitz, Letang, Malkin, Murray and Sully—got a warm reception from the crowd and a whole lot of attention on social media and throughout the broadcast of the game on both American and Canadian networks.
The Pittsburgh Zoo released a statement in defense of its actions on Thursday, downplaying any potential harm done to the (real) penguins during the event.
"The loud pop from the pyrotechnical display temporarily startled the penguins and their first reaction, similar to a human's when startled, they flapped their wings. It was less than 10 seconds, and the penguins were back to normal and exploring and playing on the ice," the statement read, in part.
As if the rest of the league and its fan bases needed another reason to come after the defending Stanley Cup champions.