PETA’s Assassin’s Creed Complaint Has Nothing To Do With Animals

PETA’s Assassin’s Creed Complaint Has Nothing To Do With Animals

The modus operandi of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals complaining about video games is by now completely transparent. They’ve had problems with everything from Pokémon to Mario’s Tanooki suit, and little of it has anything to do with the harmful depiction of animals in a video game, or the corrosive attitudes that may spread.

It’s a cynical publicity grab, because video games are a subject that carry a lot of Google juice, and objecting to them is a cheap way to make their advocacy seem more involved and forceful than it really is.

When the curtain lifted on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, a series with plenty of mainstream recognition, PETA moaned about the inclusion of whaling in a nautical-themed game set in the 1700s. It’s a silly complaint. Yes, whaling is violent, bloody and inhumane, and whales suffer an agonising death from it. The same can be said of murder, which one does throughout the Assassin’s Creed series. Whether either are being glamorised is in the eye of the beholder. To me, the idea whaling is given some special status or modern-day advocacy by its appearance in a piece of historical fiction, even if it’s a video game, is absurd.

Sure, we can talk about films like The Godfather, with its infamous horse-head-in-the-bed scene, or even something like True Grit, which shows a horse being ridden to its death, literally, and wonder why PETA doesn’t raise a stink about that. What underlines PETA’s moral opportunism is their selective targeting within games. You kill and skin the hell out of a lot of animals in Red Dead Redemption and Far Cry 3, and in Assassin’s Creed III, quite casually, I might add. But it’s the big W-word, whaling, in a title with this kind of mainstream awareness, that gets PETA in high enough dudgeon that when it butts in, that’s newsworthy, and so is a publisher’s response. Please.

Where, I wonder, is PETA on the subject of Tomb Raider — a name at least as big as Assassin’s Creed, with a series of films to back it up too. Watch the video above. It’s as visceral and intimate a depiction of killing an animal as I’ve ever seen in a game, and not just because Lara Croft expresses her regret. I can smell the gamy melange of fear and blood and deer musk and wonder how I’d summon the willpower to end that poor animal’s life, even if I was starving.

There’s a lot to think about there, including the idea that a depiction of cruelty to animals, like whaling, may actually raise such horrible and uncomfortable feelings as to change attitudes, about hunting, or eating meat, or what it really means to consume another living thing.

But I don’t think PETA’s really interested in that. It just wants its name out there.


  • The super Meat Boy guys had it right:

    How many PETA members does it take to change a lightbulb?

    None, PETA can’t change anything

  • Anything and everything PETA does is for publicity. They’re a joke. They ignore real issues which they could actually have an impact on, and instead they go for bullshit like the examples given in this article. With everything they do, they make it hard to take them seriously, and they do it all with this pathetic air of superiority.

    I don’t know how much truth is to it, but I’ve read that approximately 97 – 99% of cats and dogs taken to their shelters are put to sleep. Not re-homed, but killed. If this is true, then they’re also hypocrites as well as morons and arse-holes.

    Argh! Now I’m pissed off. Where’s a PETA representative when you want to punch someone. D:

  • They’re hypocritical, moronic attention whores, and they obviously pick the largest targets they can to the exclusion of everything else (because who has the time to complain about everything that exists and is not tofu) but the thing they’re complaining about is directly related to their cause which is, in fact, animals. Tasty, tasty animals.

  • It’s actions like this that make PETA useless. Seriously they should be encouraging people to hunt through Video Games it would mean less real world hunting?

    What’s the bet they actually found out about something before it was 6 months old for a change and thought we’ll look current?

  • Except, right after the deer thing, you can get XP and rewards and shit for killing animals. Yay, cognitive dissonance.

    • maybe it is cognitive dissonance in the game reality, but hardly in real life. As the author points out, a large part of many video games is to kill people and do other crazy immoral shit you wouldn’t even consider doing IRL. So harpooning a CG whale in a historical fiction and having a chortle is hardly advocating or encouraging whaling as a good and fun thing to do.

  • Didn’t they have a cry about the rat stabby part in BF3? That little fucker startled the shit out of me personally.

  • I have to say that whether or not it’s acceptable to include whaling in a game, I felt a bit weird about the hunting in AC3 and I would feel super-uncomfortable about going whaling as a side-quest. Unless these are, you know, devil whales or something that have to be assassinated before they propel the Templars to world domination.

      • The people in Assassin’s Creed you are actively encouraged to kill are not civilians; within the game’s lore, they’re either murderers themselves, or have deliberately chosen to be combatants in the Templar vs Assasin war. Making kills outside that scope brings up the “Connor did not kill civilians” message, with (eventually) associated penalties.

        The hunting in AC3 is a bit odd; there’s a whole bit about respecting the animal, but ultimately Connor doesn’t need the meat, and the trading/crafting minigame is so useless that the unintended message is he doesn’t need any of the other parts of the animal either. But it’s at least presented in the context of training – that (theoretically) some of your skills as a hunter are what enables you to be an effective assassin.

        Whaling – I mean, we haven’t seen the implementation yet, and that makes all the difference. Context matters. If we’re fully immersed in this dude, and it *makes sense* for him to be a whaler because his father was a whaler or something like that, then whatever. But if it’s just going out and harpooning some whales for lolz and some kind of upgrade, I, personally, do not feel good about that.

    • that is exactly the response they are after. nearly all humans know killing another human is wrong so we dont have to think about it everytime but we kill animals all the time be it for food, clothing or population control. the moral question is when is it right to kill that animal

  • They do it because they know it works. As long as articles like this continue to be written, they will continue to do it.

  • Funny I don’t see them complaining about the History channel or documentaries on similar topics.

  • PETA’s messages generally don’t have anything to do with animals anyway.. they’ve completely lost site of what they were doing these days.

  • The only reason the head of PETA gets to live is because of pigs blood derived insulin. Don’t see her bitching about that one.

  • I am no fan of PETA but watching you whitebwoys parroting conservative talking points that ‘you saw on the internet’ as if they are facts doesn’t make you look especially bright.

    Neither does the OMG WHY DINT THEY PICK ON GAME X rant. It’s unsurprising that people commenting on here would myopically assume that people who don’t spend a lot of time in basements playing vidya games should still have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the sector. They don’t, they just comment on the ones brought to their attention.

    So if you don’t like what they do, stop pointing out to them that there are more targets they could pursue.

    For PETA this press release is run of the mill stuff. For anyone else, whats an Assassin’s creed?

    Everyone raeging out over this just need more vitamin D.

    And as someone currently wearing my AC-themed underwear, I’m entitled to say this.

    Entitlement, it’s great hey?

  • “I’d summon the willpower to end that poor animal’s life, even if I was starving.”
    It’s strange: I feel the same, however some people hunt for sport and wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

  • They piss me off, Hunting is a part of human nature. If she killed the deer for sport i could agree but she was hungry out in the middle of nowhere, she shot the deer and got the meat whats wrong with that?

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