The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a strongly-worded statement to the Pittsburgh Penguins for using live penguins during pregame festivities before their game against the Philadelphia Flyers last weekend.
Before their 4–2 victory over the Flyers at Heinz Field in the NHL's Stadium Series, penguins from the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium were startled when fireworks went off as part of the pregame.
“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,” Tracy Reiman, the executive vice president of PETA, said in the letter. “Hockey fans come to see talented athletes compete, not shy animals terrorized. Will you please let us know that you won’t use live animals for promotions in the future?”
A spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Zoo said that amimal safety was a top priority and that the penguins had zoo keepers and a veterinarian at the stadium.
“The penguins who attended the Winter Classic are some of the same penguins that participate in our weekend Penguins on Parade event,” Pittsburgh Zoo spokesperson Tracy Gray said. “They are very comfortable around people and noises. In addition, it was a great enrichment opportunity for our penguins to be introduced to new sounds, sights, and smells. Keepers and our Senior Veterinarian were with the penguins at all times on the ice.”