PETA to Tampa Bay Rays: Tear down your "touch tank"

The Rays are not commenting on the situation.

In a letter sent by Winders to Rays Senior Vice President and General Counsel John P. Higgins, Winders writes that ray touch tanks have an "abysmal history of animal deaths," including a 56 percent mortality rate at Illinois' Brookfield Zoo and a near — 95 percent mortality rate at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo in California.

Ray's spokesman Rick Vaughn told CL that the team had no comment regarding PETA's request.

The "touch tank" was created by the Rays in conjunction with Tampa's Florida Aquarium, which the Rays say is the first of its kind at a professional venue.

As is the case at SeaWorld, Florida Aquarium officials have always emphasized the "educational" aspect of allowing fans to observe the enclosed animals. On the Rays website, Thom Storke, the CEO of the aquarium, says, "Sure, people will enjoy seeing and feeding the rays while attending the game, but they will also learn about these interesting animals and possibly want to see more exotic and interesting fish available to them here."

Here's the exact letter that PETA has sent to the Rays:

Dear Mr. Higgins,
I am writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and its more than 3 million members and supporters, including more than 100,000 who live in Florida, to ask again that you please remove Tropicana Field's reckless and cruel "touch tank," where animals are confined to a small enclosure, subjected to constant reverberations from crowds, poked and prodded by up to 50 unfamiliar people at a time, and left unprotected from potential abuse. Your tank has the additional danger of being in a baseball stadium, where a ray could easily be injured or killed by an errant ball. Cruelty-to-animals charges could well result if and when a ball hits and injures or kills one of the rays. And as recent events have demonstrated, that threat is all too real.

When PETA previously contacted you, we expressed concerns about both the tank itself and complaints about how your team was offering to give $5,000 to charity for any home runs hit into the tank. You claimed to be unaware of any such offer (although references to it remain on your website in at least four places) but declined to remove the tank to protect the rays inside. At least two balls have been hit into the tank, despite your assurances that this was nearly impossible.

Because rays require such specific conditions in order to live safely and comfortably, a "touch tank" is not anything to be proud of: 41 of 43 rays died in the Calgary Zoo's touch tank, and 18 of 19 died at California's Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Nineteen of 34 rays died in the Brookfield Zoo, and 11 of 18 died in the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park. Please do not let the Rays sentence their namesake to the same fate.

The Rays can make a genuine commitment to wildlife by working in conjunction with the Florida Aquarium to rehabilitate and return all the rays to their rightful wild home. May we hear that you will get the process underway? It would raise a cheer in the wildlife protection community and generate very good press. I can be reached at 202-309-4697 or [email protected] Thank you for your time and attention.

It's not the first time they're talking about this, but the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera's prodigious home run that splashed into the "touch tank" at Tropicana Field two weeks ago has inspired PETA to ask the Rays to close down the 35-foot, 10,000 gallon tank.

"The rays held captive at Tropicana Field not only were traumatically taken from their vast home waters but also are subject to harassment, loud crowds, and even baseballs capable of seriously injuring them," says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders in a press release. "When it comes to compassion, the Rays are batting .000."

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