Animal Crossing

PETA under fire for TikTok campaign against Animal Crossing fish tanks

by Theo Salaun

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PETA has used fish in Animal Crossing for their latest virtual protest and, in doing so, somehow angered thousands of animal-lovers and gamers alike.

PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, appears to have mistreated Animal Crossing and, once again, whiffed on an effort to strike a topical chord with today’s culture.

In their latest gaffe, the organization shared a TikTok video in which they mounted a virtual protest at Blathers’ museum, picketing with signs and yelling at the game’s beloved museum curating owl to “empty the tanks!”

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Instead of the viral support for a “cultural reset” they presumably hoped for, the organization has been met with general condemnations of simple misguidedness and more specific shots at their hypocrisy in a classic example of a popular Twitter account getting ‘ratio’d.’

For one, Blathers is an owl, making his harassment feel...misplaced. For another, people have pointed out that, in order to protest at all, PETA would have had to catch the fish and offer them to Blathers’ museum—hypocritically breaking their own vegan guide to Animal Crossing.

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It’s like wanting to protest someone wearing a fur coat and, to do so, killing a litter of adorable minks, crafting the coat, and then pouring red paint upon yourself. 

The whole thing just feels like a reach and one in the wrong direction. Yes, animals deserve advocacy, and, outside of the obviously inhumane fur industry, there is legitimate discourse to be had surrounding hunting, meat consumption, and wildlife captivity.

But, as many have pointed out, Animal Crossing is a video game. While people live amongst anthropomorphic animals, they also get into some fishing and bug hunting. If PETA believes that gaming behavior can be intrinsically problematic for the real world, then wait until they find out about Call of Duty. Then, wait until they hear about some this year’s Academy Awards winners: Parasite, Joker, and 1917.

Nintendo
Tarantulas are scary, but people will catch them in Animal Crossing for money and sport.

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This isn’t PETA’s first attempt to strike out at gaming content instead of real-world abuse; their 2012 Pokemon Black & Blue flash game—in which players played as Pikachu and battled against abusive trainers—is the most popular example.

And this latest campaign is, again, a miss. The organization has over a million followers on Twitter and Instagram apiece, but, at the time of writing, they’ve managed to hit just 2,760 on TikTok. 

This is surprising for an app so dominated by Gen Z, a generation known for its activism and environmentalism. But it speaks to tone-deaf messaging. While the organization has followed their video up on Twitter by calling their Animal Crossing campaign “tongue-in-cheek” and mocking people “crying about PETA raiding islands to free the fish,” they continue to miss the mark.

PETA
PETA's Pokemon Black & Blue, a parody Flash game from 2012.

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Although it may be exaggerated, the video is not at all tongue-in-cheek as it simply reiterates their earlier article about the game. And no one is complaining about them raiding islands, no one even thinks that they are raiding islands—since whoever’s island it is must be the one to put the signs down themselves, thanks to Nintendo’s griefing rules. 

PETA has most certainly succeeded in raising pitchforks for their “#BlathersIsOverParty,” but those pitchforks have been pointed at their uncouth marketing instead of a pixelated owl.