The NHL Stadium Series at Heinz Field didn’t just feature the Pittsburgh Penguins, but there were actual penguins on the ice, too. And PETA is not too happy.
Before the Penguins kicked off their game against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium brought out some live mascots out to entertain the fans. However, while the little birds were waddling around on the ice, a fireworks display went off, and they were pretty visibly terrified.
As you can imagine, PETA wrote a letter to the team, condemning the use of the animals, who they say were “scrambling in terror.”
“It’s inherently stressful for wild animals like penguins to be hauled around, used as props, and exposed to noisy crowds, with or without explosives going off,” PETA executive vice president Tracy Reiman said in a statement Thursday, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “PETA is calling for the only Penguins on the ice at Heinz Field to be humans on skates.”
The Pittsburgh Zoo responded to the letter, saying the penguins were just fine.
“The penguins who attended the Winter Classic are some of the same penguins that participate in our weekend Penguins on Parade event,” 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.
“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.”
It’s tough to say how much the penguins were affected without a neutral expert opinion, as both PETA and the Pittsburgh Zoo are going to speak to their bottom line. However, if you’ve ever had a pet on the Fourth of July, you know animals and fireworks don’t mix well.
The Penguins — the team, not the birds — declined to comment, as all Stadium Series entertainment is organized by the NHL.
Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images