People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) appears to have expanded its cause to include virtual fish in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the wildly popular video game for the Nintendo Switch.
PETA shared footage on Twitter Wednesday of an apparent in-game protest outside Blathers’ Museum, a virtual museum run by a cartoon owl in the game.
Animal Crossing puts players in charge of an idyllic, deserted island where they can grow flowers, plant fruit, catch fish and snare bugs. Players submit the fish and bugs to the museum for display, but the creatures are not killed in the game.
PETA’s video shows several human players protesting outside the museum and then storming into it. The players run around the museum’s fish tank displays, shouting “EMPTY THE TANKS” and “FISH ARE FRIENDS.” Several of them can be seen surrounding Blathers, the cartoon owl, while shouting their angry messages.
“Blathers encourages players to take fish out of their natural habitats so he can trap them in tiny tanks,” the captioned PETA video says. “CANCELLED.”
Global News reached out to Blathers in-game for a comment on PETA. He simply said “WHO?” because Blathers isn’t real — and neither are his captive fish.
PETA followed up on its original Animal Crossing tweet with an in-depth guide to going vegan in Animal Crossing. The guide recommends that players avoid most activities involved with the game, such as digging up clams, catching bugs and going fishing.
“Fishing isn’t vegan!” the guide says. “You shouldn’t fish in real life, so you shouldn’t do so in the game, either.”
The guide also recommends that players avoid building a dog house and shun any virtual clothing that features fur or leather.
“Even in the fictional world of this game, sentencing animals to a lifetime of suffering before killing and skinning them, just to wear their skin, fur, or feathers, is so not cool,” the guide says.
PETA says there are plenty of ways to enjoy (though perhaps not progress through) the video game. It also applauded the game for featuring human-like animals that share the deserted island with the player’s character.
“The premise of Animal Crossing: New Horizons should send the important message that other animals are individuals with whom we share the world—not objects for us to exploit,” PETA said.
PETA has also followed up on the original video with several tweets highlighting real-world animal cruelty — including some gruesome clips of animals being killed.
“Killing animals kills us all,” PETA tweeted.
Many users mocked PETA for the video, while others pointed out that PETA staff would have needed to catch the fish before they could protest for their in-game freedom.
“It’s almost like it’s a video game,” one user remarked.
“Ah man, can’t believe I have to stop playing a game about being friends (with) animals just (because) I can fish,” another user wrote.
“Are they seriously trying to cancel a video game character?” one person asked.
PETA answered several critics with sassy memes.
Another user responded by showing his “murder” of a cow in Minecraft, another popular game.
Dozens of users simply responded by sharing photos of hamburgers.
Nintendo’s Animal Crossing game is meant for all ages, including children, according to its ESRB rating.
Nintendo sold more than 13 million copies of the game within the first six weeks after it launched at the beginning of global coronavirus lockdowns last March. Animal Crossing also beat all other games in sales, including those available on Playstation and Xbox systems.
Animal Crossing is only available on Nintendo’s Switch.