PETA warned vegan players that they shouldn't fish, clam, or sell bugs while playing Animal Crossing

  • 'Animal Crossing: New Horizons' was released for the Nintendo Switch on March 20.
  • Characters make money by catching virtual fish, bugs, and other creatures and selling them in the game's general store.
  • People for Ethical Treatment of Animals warned players after the game's release that the virtual sporting is not vegan.
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After "Animal Crossing: New Horizons" was been released for the Nintendo Switch on March 20 — right as experts recommended the practice of social distancing — many people are hunkered down on their couches with the cheery, seemingly gentle game.

For those stuck inside, some are opting for a virtual escape to the islands of Animal Crossing, where they can spend their days in the sun picking fruit, fishing, digging for clams, and donating to Blathers the owl's museum.

Despite the game's entirely virtual activities, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had a message for players. 

"Fishing isn't vegan!" the organization said in a blog post. "You shouldn't fish in real life, so you shouldn't do so in the game, either."

PETA, which is known for its extreme and often divisive messaging, acknowledged in the "vegan guide" to the new game that the fish and bugs in the game aren't alive and "don't feel pain," but still called the virtual sporting "cruel and bad for the environment."

"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," the post said. "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."

The article almost appears like a tongue-in-cheek effort to use the game as a platform to talk about their beliefs on real-life fishing, hunting, and animal rights.

For example, the writer used Tom Nook, the fictional real-estate mogul depicted in the game, as an example to address the harming of the Japanese mammals in real life.

"Tom Nook is a tanuki, or a raccoon dog, who are often killed for their fur," the post said. "Others like him in the real world are beaten, anally electrocuted, gassed, or skinned alive."

And despite their criticisms, PETA doesn't discourage vegans from boycotting the game altogether.

The post offered alternatives for players, like picking and selling fruit, having bonfires, and customizing passports and other items with pro-vegan language.

"PETA hopes the game will encourage people to feel closer to the animals we share our planet with and inspire them to work to #EndSpeciesism—the misguided belief that humans are superior to all other animal species and that it's OK for us to exploit some species in horrible ways for our own trivial purposes," the blog post said.

Some players posted online to disagree with PETA's messaging about the game.

Some players who are familiar with PETA's shock-value campaigns consider the post more comical than serious.

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