October 11, 2012 by Julia
Listen, I am a friend of animals. I actually can’t even watch any scene of violence against animals in movies or on tv because it freaks me out–animal abuse is disgusting, and stopping it is one of the issues to which I donate. I have no desire to be a vegetarian, but if I have a choice and can afford it, I choose vegetarian-fed, wild-caught (including gifts from individual hunters), and/or humanely-raised meat and seafood options. My pets are all rescues from no-kill shelters (I wanted to rescue pets who were bound for death at the ASPCA, but these kind of fell into my lap and I couldn’t say no to those little faces), and I do not buy anything from any pet store that sells animals from puppy or kitten mills.
I have set forth my “cred” so no one can say that I don’t understand or don’t care. I do, on both counts, which is how I can say that PETA does more harm than good. Seriously, PETA is known for slaughtering animals (check out this blog for background, about PETA, the Humane Society, and other kill shelters) They have no credibility, and they should disband so the money they receive in donations can be directed to organizations that actually save animals’ lives.
Even before I learned the above information, I distrusted PETA, because I am a devotee of the rule of law rather than the extra-legal methods employed by PETA. Strengthening punishments through the legal system for people who abuse animals? Cool, I agree. Physically attacking and shaming people who engage in entirely legal and not directly violent activities, like wearing fur coats? I don’t like that at ALL. There’s just something about angry mobs that turns me off…
I played the “game” PETA invented for this press release, and I only lasted about two minutes before I was thoroughly disgusted. The various Pokemon revolt against their human trainers (who are all covered in blood, making it extra creepy), and you have to fight against the humans as the Pokemon.
The Pokemon don’t just have their regular powers–they’ve gained new powers, including things like “Protest,” “Petition,” and “Bullhorn.” When the Pokemon win, they lecture the humans, who inevitably have their minds changed. Out of the four trainers, the first represents someone who owns animals on her own terms (i.e. never walking her Tepig because she doesn’t have time), the second represents animal testing, the third represents eating and wearing clothing made from animal products, and the fourth represents using animals for entertainment, such as circuses.
Additionally, as you proceed through the game, you get treasure chests, which give you access to videos. I assume these videos depict animal abuse, so there is no way in hell I’m watching them.
Aside from the “game” being heavy-handed and creepy, the big problem here is that PETA clearly does not know anything about Pokemon. Frankly, I don’t know that much either–but I do know enough to know that PETA is wrong. Here is a video by someone who knows more about the series than I do, giving PETA what for.
Apparently in Pokemon: Black & White, the villain was a character who manipulated someone who wanted to free Pokemon, in order to push some plan for world domination. In case you didn’t play Black & White, by the way, PETA helpfully spoils the ending for you in its creepy “game.”
There are different ways to interpret this plotline (i.e. you could take the position that freeing Pokemon is a noble pursuit, but this other dude corrupted it), but one popular interpretation is that the hero of the story is merely defending slavery, and Think Progress (surprise!) writes that the goal is to “marginalize animal welfare advocates.” Well, maybe. I don’t know. I doubt it (probably, they just needed a good cause for the villain to hide behind), but hey, you never know. What is obvious, though, is that PETA is only using Pokemon as a cover–the issues it brings up, as set forth above, are real issues in our world, not in the Pokemon world. Its so-called “game” could be about any franchise whatsoever, because it’s about things PETA thinks are evil in reality, not in the game.
To drive this point home further, consider that the things listed in the PETA game don’t even happen in the Pokemon world (as far as I know). Even Pokemon used for “fighting” are treasured friends of their trainers. When a character violates this sacred bond, he is portrayed as the villain and taught a lesson, not glorified. Yes, the canon storyline punishes abuse. Is the slavery argument valid? Perhaps, depending on how you view Pokemon. But this screencap right here?
This is a direct contradiction of the Pokemon story! Ash’s entire character concept revolves around him being friends with his Pokemon, and taking good care of them! This isn’t a parody of Pokemon unless you completely re-write the series and then criticize the re-written series you just made instead of the original. Absurd!
What I’m not saying is that cartoons or television shows directed at children should never be viewed critically. Of course any television show that glorified actual violence against animals is going to be criticized by the public; I certainly wouldn’t want my kids becoming desensitized to animal abuse. But seriously, PETA jumped into something here about which it knows nothing, wasting any legitimate argument it may have had against one specific aspect of Pokemon, or shows which actually depict animal abuse positively (are there any?).
I don’t really appreciate PETA using geekdom to push an agenda, especially when PETA has to lie about the content of the series/games to make its “parody” work.