Pittsburgh Zoo reacts to PETA complaints over live penguin use at NHL game

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was not happy with the NHL following the league’s Stadium Series game last weekend.

The animal rights group sent a letter to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday to express their displeasure with the team using live penguins for entertainment during the outdoor game against the Flyers at Heinz Field last Saturday.

The criticism came after video shows the group of penguins being spooked by fireworks exploding during the pregame ceremonies.

Here’s a portion of PETA’s complaint to the Penguins:

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.

Being held in captivity is stressful enough to make penguins susceptible to illness, and putting them in a crowded, noisy stadium only makes matters worse.

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?

Shortly after that the Penguins received that letter, the Pittsburgh Zoo, which brought the animals to the event, issued a response, saying the safety of the animals was top priority and that they are “very comfortable around people and noises.”

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the league — not the team — was responsible for planning entertainment aspects of the event, and a Penguins spokesman declined comment.