Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

PETA, Mario, and El Chupacabra

It is a particularly vexing problem to try to determine my attitude toward a group whose goals I basically agree with, but whose tactics are so bizarre and repellent that I don't even want to have my name associated with them.

I'm referring in this case to PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.  I think their aims are laudable -- improving conditions for animals, from pets to farm animals to animals in research to wild animals.  I find their approach hard to fathom, however, especially their deliberate use of shocking imagery, their breaking in to research facilities and releasing caged animals (most of whom probably die in the first days after release), and their treating of all animal deaths as equivalent (remember when they condemned President Obama for swatting a fly?).

They also don't understand the principle of "choose your battles."  Nor, apparently, do they have any sense as to when an extreme stance will cause far more people to laugh at you than to support you.  Because their latest campaign is against...

... Mario.

Yup.  The little Nintendo cartoon guy.  Why?  Because in his latest incarnation, in Super Mario 3D Land, he's wearing a magic fur coat that allows him to jump higher.

Further, they claim that because Mario's fur coat is modeled after the fur of the Japanese raccoon dog (tanuki), that he is directly responsible for the death of tanukis raised for fur in Japan.  So they decided to make their own game, in which a bloody, hairless tanuki is chasing Mario around trying to get his fur back.  And on their website, they have a picture of a crazed Mario holding up a severed tanuki head.

And I'm thinking, "Really?  They're going after a video game character?  Don't they have anything better to do with their time and resources?  Or are they just trying to lose what little credibility they have left?"

Don't get me wrong; I'm a strong advocate of treating animals with respect and kindness, and I think much of the treatment of animals in industry is reprehensible.  But... a video game character?  Wearing a fur suit that isn't real?  It reminds me of what my dad once said to a salesman in a furniture store, when he was being shown a chair upholstered in Naugahyde:  "Aren't you afraid that sooner or later, you'll run out of Naugas?"

On the other hand, the whole ridiculous incident may explain recent happenings in Oklahoma, in which a teenager shot an animal that he thought was El Chupacabra.  On further analysis, it turned out that the dead animal was actually a hairless raccoon.

Maybe the whole El Chupacabra phenomenon can be laid at Mario's feet, you know?  Maybe they're going on the rampage because they're trying to get their fur back, and prevent Mario from getting all those little gold coins, and jumping on the magic boxes, and so on.  We probably shouldn't tell PETA this, however, or they will swarm en masse to the Southwest and begin a "Save the Chupacabra" campaign.

On the other hand, maybe it will give them something to do.

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