PETA pleads with Penguins to 'never again' use live animals
Charles LeClaire / USA Today Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins' Stadium Series stunt may have gotten a bit too real.

PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, sent a letter to Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse on Thursday, calling on the club to avoid using live birds like the ones that were seen at ice level before Saturday night's outdoor game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Heinz Field.

Related: Actual penguins take the ice at Stadium Series in Pittsburgh

"Dear Mr. Morehouse, I'm writing on behalf of PETA and our more than five 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," PETA's John Di Leonardo wrote, according to Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"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," Di Leonardo added.

"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."

Despite the reasonable plea, it should have actually been directed toward the league office. The NHL was responsible for in-game production of the Stadium Series game, not the Penguins, according to Werner.

The live birds were trotted out as part of the pregame festivities, and as Di Leonardo indicates, they appeared frightened by the fireworks that were set off before the puck was dropped.

The Pittsburgh Zoo issued a statement of its own Thursday, essentially downplaying any harm done to the animals.

"The loud pop from the pyrotechnical display temporarily startled the penguins and their first reaction, similar to a human's when startled, (was to flap) their wings," the zoo wrote.

"It was (for) less than 10 seconds, and the penguins were back to normal and exploring and playing on the ice (after the fireworks)."

Maybe just stick to human Penguins next time.

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PETA pleads with Penguins to 'never again' use live animals
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