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PETA sets sights on Rays 'touch tank'

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

Back on June 30 in the Rays' Tropicana Field, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera did this:

That was only the second time in the history of the "touch tank" that a player has hit a home run into it.

Courtesy of tbo.com, here's some information about the tank:

The 10,000-gallon tank with more than 30 cownose rays was set up by the team in 2006 through a partnership with The Florida Aquarium to educate fans about aquatic life and conservation, and to help promote the nonprofit Tampa aquarium. According to the team's website, the rays were caught in Tampa Bay and are cared for by aquarium personnel.

Only 50 people at a time are allowed access to the tank on game days. Fans may purchase ray food, with proceeds going to the aquarium and the team's charity foundation, the team's website said.

And, apparently, the Cabrera homer drew PETA's attention, because now the Rays have gotten a letter from the organization.

"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," Delcianna Winders of PETA's captive animal law enforcement said in a statement to the media (tbo.com). "When it comes to compassion, the Rays are batting .000."

Ooh. Got them with the baseball reference. Zing!

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. I'll guess the fact that the rays are subjected to people touching them is what is considered harassment here.

PETA's request is that the rays be returned to their natural habitat in Tampa Bay (the actual bay itself, not the surrounding metropolitan area).

In conclusion, I have a question -- OK, two: Where was this letter in 2007, when Luis Gonzalez of the Dodgers hit a ball into the tank? What about when the tank was installed in 2006?

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