PETA wages war on Pokemon for virtual animal cruelty

Although Pokemon and Pikachu are fictional animated species and not real creatures, the animal rights group says their struggle in Pokemon Black and White 2 condones animal abuse.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read
PETA's spoof video game that gets Pokemon to fight against his Trainers. Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

Pokemon has begun his struggle for freeman and liberation, fighting his trainers, doling out group hugs and going to protests... in PETA's alternate universe, that is.

The animal rights group has launched a campaign against Pokemon Black and White 2, saying that the game condones animal cruelty and that its creatures are treated like abused animals.

"The amount of time that Pokemon spend stuffed in pokeballs is akin to how elephants are chained up in train carts, waiting to be let out to 'perform' in circuses," PETA wrote on its Web site. "But the difference between real life and this fictional world full of organized animal fighting is that Pokémon games paint rosy pictures of things that are actually horrible."

In addition to speaking out against the game's makers, PETA has also created a spoof video game called Pokemon Black & Blue: Gotta Free 'Em All on its Web site. The premise of the game is that the characters battle their trainers in their crusade for freedom. Players are given choices about how to "use attacks to exploit a Trainer's weakness," including group hugs, protests, quick attack, and thundershock.

"If PETA existed in Unova, our motto would be: Pokemon are not ours to use or abuse," the group wrote on its Web site. "They exist for their own reasons. We believe that this is the message that should be sent to children."

Nintendo's Pokemon gaming franchise, which is geared toward children, is one of the most successful worldwide. In what started out as simple adventures with Pokemon and Pikachu has now morphed into several video games, TV shows, toys, trading cards, and books that feature more than 600 fictional species. Pokemon Black and White 2 was released in July in Japan and is slated to hit North America, Europe, and Australia this month.

PETA has a habit of taking jabs at video games. In 2010, the group went after Zynga for having animated pit bulls as attack dogs in its game Mafia Wars. That same year, in response to an Android app that lets users train dogs to fight each other, it launched an iPhone app that highlighted stories about animal cruelty. And last year, in what seems like a spoof itself -- PETA went after Nintendo's Super Mario 3D Land for dressing Mario in a fur suit.