PETA claims the fireworks used during the game terrified the birds and caused them stress
Credit: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium have ruffled some feathers.

According to CBS Pittsburgh, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is furious that a group of live penguins was brought out on the ice during the Feb. 25 National Hockey League Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers.

The game occurred outside at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and featured a moment where real, live penguins from the zoo were brought onto the ice for their own miniature game, during which fireworks were set off.

Footage from the animals’ time on the ice shows the penguins running and flapping their wings in shock when the pyrotechnics explode behind them. In a letter written to David Morehouse, the president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Penguins, PETA states it is obvious that the birds are “scrambling in terror” from the “ear-splitting fireworks” show, which they claim is an unnecessary and cruel stress for the animals to endure.

“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,” the letter from senior PETA campaigner John Di Leonardo continues.

The complaint also calls out the zoo, which PETA says has failed to uphold the standards of care for its animals now that it is no longer accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The Pittsburgh Zoo recently released a response to PETA’s claim.

“The NHL worked with us to ensure that the penguins would be safe and enjoy their visit to Heinz Field,” the statement says. “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.”

The statement also addresses the penguins’ reaction to the fireworks as a natural response that shouldn’t be over-analyzed.

“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 reads.

PETA is still asking that the zoo and the Pittsburgh Penguins agree to no longer use live animals at sporting events and promotions.