Tampa Bay's Real-Life Rays Land Them in Hot Water with PETA

Josh Schoch@JoshSchochAnalyst IIIJuly 11, 2013

In one of the more bizarre stories in MLB this season, the Tampa Bay Rays are in hot water with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, more commonly known as PETA.

According to Rick Mayer of the Tampa Tribune, PETA is not too thrilled with the team's 10,000-gallon tank filled with 30 cownose rays.

The complaints have come in response to Miguel Cabrera becoming just the second player in history to blast a home run into the "touch tank" out in center field. The ball that hit the water is said to have put the rays in serious danger.

Mayer quoted PETA's director of captive animals law enforcement, Delcianna Winders, in an official statement about the situation:

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.

Winders also wrote to the team, saying, "as recent events have demonstrated, that threat is all too real."

The team had no comment on the situation, according to Mayer, but common sense would dictate that a strongly worded letter and an official statement won't be enough to tear down the attraction.

Fans wait in long lines to see the touch tank, which only allows 50 people at a time on game days (per Mayer).

Long lines to get up to see the #Rays touch tank. pic.twitter.com/idojJDj0Bg

— realrockriley (@realrockriley) July 11, 2013

What's more, the proceeds from fans purchasing ray food go the Florida Aquarium and the Tampa Bay Rays' charity organization.

It must have been a slow day for Winders and PETA's captive animals law enforcement team when they decided to attack the Rays. The worst things about the tank, according to PETA, are that balls are hit there, the crowds are loud and the rays are subject to harassment.

First, only two home runs have been hit into the tank (Luis Gonzalez in 2007 and Cabrera on July 1) since the tank was installed in 2006, and neither ball has hit a ray. Also, baseballs float, and it looks like neither ball even hit the bottom of the tank. So how much damage could they really do unless the ray is at the top of the tank?

Matt Snyder of CBS Sports wrote that he would have proposed putting a netting over the tank to make sure balls don't hit the animals. But he then acknowledged that Winders and Co. would not be happy with this situation, according to the letter.

I was about to suggest some netting over the top of the tank to ensure baseballs don't kill some rays, but take note of the "loud crowds" complaint. I'm not sure what "harassment" means here, either, as PETA apparently offered no specific examples of harassment.

Maybe if the Rays had one of the louder ballparks in MLB, PETA's noise complaint would make sense. But they have a lot of difficulty drawing fans, ranking second-to-last ahead of only the Miami Marlins, according to ESPN.

Finally, what about touching and feeding the rays in a controlled environment constitutes harassment? Just about every major aquarium in the country has a tank where you can feel rays, and having the rays eat to their hearts' content is tough to qualify as harassment.