When it comes to video games, ethics can be quite a fickle thing. Any player with the ability to do whatever they want along what the game allows them to do, will most likely just do it. Of course, this is all just virtual and none of it ever really affects real life. But apparently, to some organizations–they’ve taken interest into the virtual life in order to tell people what to do and not to do. In this case, it’s PETA for Animal Crossing: New Horizon.
The animal rights organization has taken to issuing an extensive ethical guide for how player’s should behave in Animal Crossing: New Horizon. You can read it here.
To star with, fishing is apparently a big no-no. According to the guide, fishing isn’t ethical at all because it hurts fish and it’s your job, as the island caretaker, to protect the environment around it. The guide PETA issues explicitly discourages players from using some of the game’s mechanics for the sake of being ethical. This includes bug catching.
Sure, unlike in real life, the fish in the game don’t feel pain, but fishing is harmful to animals and the planet. This is your island, and it’s your job to protect it. Tearing the wildlife right out of their ocean homes so that you can “donate” them to Blathers for museum exhibits is not only cruel but also bad for the environment.
The guide even goes to encourage you to forbid Blathers, a game character, to build a fish museum. PETA even tells you not to dig for clams and to leave hermit crabs alone. The quote from the article is as follows:
Hermit crabs love hanging out on the shore of your island. Leave them there. When you capture a hermit crab in the game, the screen says, “I caught a hermit crab! I think it wanted to be left alone!” In this situation, the game demonstrates surprising awareness that we shouldn’t be bothering these animals and taking them from their homes.
PETA’s article even goes on to list the “ok” foods to eat for vegans, which consists primarily of fruits. One of their comment particularly stands out for the game.
It’s disappointing that a game in which villagers from all different species (from elephants and ducks to deer and pigs) coexist harmoniously with humans encourages abusive behavior toward fish and insects. Instead of being recognized as the living, breathing, feeling individuals they are, they’re presented as forms of entertainment for the other villagers. Your island should be a safe space for all animals, big and small.
It even goes on to give a lecture about how Nintendo is encouraging animal individuality. The article wrongly informs viewers about how pigs are being sweet, gentle, and kind. In real life, pigs are omnivores and will eat just about anything…including human beings when given the chance.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is fantastical in many ways, but when you look a little closer, you realize that there are even more ways in which it’s realistic. While other animals don’t speak the same language we do, they really do have their own means of communication and individual personalities. By populating your island with animals such as sheep, deer, and rabbits who have strong personalities, Nintendo is reinforcing the important fact that animals are individuals.
The article however, does go on to state that PETA has nothing against Animal Crossing: New Horizon as it encourages people to see animals are individual beings. But it’s up to you as the reader to decide whether to follow PETA’s ethics guide.