PETA objects to octopus tossing at Detroit Red Wings games

DETROIT, MICH. - A nationwide animal-welfare group said the Detroit Red Wings should throw the book at any die-hard fan -- observing a 65-year-old tradition -- who throws an octopus onto the ice at the team's games.

Such a fan should be fined $5,000 -- 10 times the rarely enforced fine in a city ordinance for littering a field of play -- and should be ejected for life from all Red Wings games, said the nonprofit PETA, which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Although arena rules and a Detroit city ordinance forbid the practice, arena ushers and league officials have for the most part looked the other way for years. The Red Wings, scheduled to move to a new rink next year, are soon to play the team’s last two games at Joe Louis Arena -- Saturday and Sunday. Fans are said to be buying the eight-tentacled sea creatures for tossing onto the ice to pay homage to the Joe.

PETA said today that’s wrong, according to a news release from the group based in Norfolk, Va.

“PETA -- whose motto reads, in part, that ‘animals are not ours to use for entertainment’ -- sent a letter today calling on the team and the arena to crack down on rules already in place to prohibit this practice,” the release said.

The letter, addressed to Wings president and CEO Chris Ilitch from PETA President Ingrid Newkirk, said in part:

“Octopuses are intelligent, sensitive animals who feel pain, and it's no more acceptable to kill one for such a disrespectful, frivolous, and stupid purpose than it is to throw a dead bear cub onto the ice during a Bruins game. ... It's no more acceptable to kill them for a decades-old tradition than it is to harm any other living beings.”

Read: PETA's letter to Red Wings

At Superior Fish Co. in Royal Oak, long the fans' favored source of octopuses -- or octopi, as some say -- co-owner Kevin Dean said the sea creatures aren’t endangered, and they arrive at his store frozen and thoroughly "passed away" from the western Pacific Ocean, where they are plentiful.

“Everyone's allowed to have their personal opinion," Dean said Friday. "But I compare the octopus in the Red Wings tradition to the pumpkin for Halloween. You don’t consume them. You use them for tradition,” he said.

The Red Wings front office, queried earlier in the week for a comment on octopus tossing -- before the PETA announcement -- replied with “no comment at this time."

So, what's a fan's alternative? PETA suggests people celebrate “with cruelty-free plush octopus toys.”

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Contact Bill Laitner: blaitner@freepress.com

© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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