PETA criticizes NHL's use of penguins during Stadium Series game
March 2, 2017 3:45 PM
Penguins run around the ice Feb. 25 at Heinz Field.
By Sam Werner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a letter to the Penguins Thursday criticizing the team’s use of live penguins during its pregame entertainment for the Stadium Series game at Heinz Field Feb. 25.
A video showed the penguins, from the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, scrambling after fireworks went off inside the stadium.
“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. “PETA is calling for the only Penguins on the ice at Heinz Field to be humans on skates.”
The NHL, not the Penguins, was responsible for all production aspects of the Stadium Series game, including on-ice entertainment. A team spokesman declined comment.
Tracy Gray, a spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Zoo, said in a statement that the safety of its animals are a top priority and that the animals were accompanied by zoo keepers and a veterinarian during the appearance at Heinz Field.
“The penguins who attended the Winter Classic are some of the same penguins that participate in our weekend Penguins on Parade event. 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 pyro technical 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 said.
Here is the full text of PETA’s letter to the Penguins.
March 2, 2017
David Morehouse President and CEO Pittsburgh Penguins
Dear Mr. Morehouse,
I'm writing on behalf of PETA and our more than 5 million members and supporters worldwide to urge you never again to have live animals at Heinz Field, given the disturbing video footage showing penguins from the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium scrambling in terror after being paraded in front of a screaming crowd and in close proximity to ear-splitting fireworks.
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.
Also, since the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium — which has been criticized recently for its plans to help SeaWorld separate bonded captive polar bears — is no longer accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), it no longer has to maintain the AZA's minimal standards of care for penguins and other animals. In November, the facility was cited for critical noncompliance with the federal Animal Welfare Act when an enclosure flooded, killing 36 bats.
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?
Thank you for your consideration.
John Di Leonardo, M.S. Senior Campaigner Animals in Entertainment
Sam Werner: email@example.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.