As if the Toronto Blue Jays don't have enough troubles trying to hang on to their playoff hopes.
Now they've run afoul of an animal activist group.
PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – has fired off a scathing letter to the American League team, complaining that the club used poor judgment when they allowed the players to cavort with lion and tiger cubs before their game against the Chicago Cubs at Rogers Centre on Wednesday.
The animals were brought to the Toronto clubhouse from a private zoo in Bowmanville, Ont., supposedly as a kind of a team-building exercise. Several of the players posted pictures on social media sites showing the animals in the clubhouse.
"We kind of enjoyed it, the team enjoyed it," Toronto manager John Gibbons said before Monday night's series opener here against the Baltimore Orioles.
A press release that accompanied a letter that PETA sent off to the Blue Jays said that it is calling on the team to "drop cruel and dangerous stunts" involving captive wild animals.
"Most baby animals used for photo ops, including the lion and tiger cubs your players were snapping pictures with, are torn away from their mothers shortly after birth and spend their lives in tiny cages, deprived of all that is natural and important to them," said the letter, which is signed by Delcianna Winders, deputy general counsel, captive animal law enforcement for the PETA Foundation.
PETA has its headquarters in Norfolk, Va., and claims to have more than 800,000 members worldwide.
Winders added in her letter that "there's nothing sporting about subjecting a terrified baby animal to excessive handling in a noisy, unfamiliar locker room."
Ironically, the visit of the animals to the clubhouse was arranged by pitcher Mark Buehrle, a dog lover who has been outspoken against an Ontario law that prohibits people from owning pit bulls in the province.
Buehrle is the owner of four dogs, including a pit bull.
He said he was at the zoo in Bowmanville with his kids and was told that if he wanted he could set up a time to bring some of the animals to the Blue Jays clubhouse.
"They're like little puppies, they nibble on you, kind of scratch, but I wasn't afraid one of them was going to go crazy and attack somebody," Buehrle said.
The Toronto pitcher said the whole matter is being overblown.
"You can't please everybody," he said. "I think this is pretty dumb that we bring these tigers and people are sitting there saying animal abuse and all this other crap. You can't please everybody. Some people think it's cool and some people just want to mouth off and say stupid stuff. It doesn't bother me at all.