The zoo calls it an "enrichment experience" for penguins, but PETA thinks it amounts to "shy animals terrorized." Such is the controversy over the NHL's decision to put live penguins on the ice before a rare outdoor game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. In a letter to the team, the animal rights group says the creatures were clearly uncomfortable in front of the large crowd, especially when fireworks went off, reports the Pittsburgh Gazette. (This video of that moment was making the rounds.) PETA says it was "stressful" for the sensitive animals to be "hauled around" and "used as props," per the New York Times. Nope, says the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, which the penguins call home.
“The penguins who attended the Winter Classic are some of the same penguins that participate in our weekend Penguins on Parade event," says the zoo, and thus they are used to crowds. Yes, they were startled by the fireworks, but "were back to normal and exploring and playing" in a matter of seconds. Nevertheless, PETA asked the team to never put live animals on the ice again. The team didn't comment, and the league, which was in charge of the show, referred reporters back to the zoo's response. PETA has been pushing for the end of all live-animal mascots, and the Times notes that LSU, for example, will no longer bring its tiger mascot to the football stadium on game days. (Read more Pittsburgh Penguins stories.)