PETA is on the defensive after receiving backlash for attacking Super Mario 3D Land for its alleged portrayal of tanuki (aka raccoon dog) abuse. Earlier this week, the animal rights organization posted Super Tanooki Skin 2D, a minigame wherein players control a skinned tanuki tasked with chasing down a bloodied Mario and his fancy new Tanooki suit. Naturally, the gaming community did not take kindly to Mario's new persona, prompting PETA to issue a statement apologizing for what it calls a misunderstood, “tongue-in-cheek” promotion, because PETA is known for having a great sense of humor.(opens in new tab)
"Mario fans: Relax! PETA's game was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, a fun way to call attention to a serious issue, that raccoon dogs are skinned alive for their fur," said Shakira Croce, PETA's media coordinator in an email obtained by Kotaku. "We wish real-life tanukis could fly or swat enemies away with their tails and escape from those who profit from their skins. You can help them by never buying real fur."
Croce insisted PETA does not actually believe raccoon dogs are depicted poorly in Super Mario 3D Land, but that it was using the game to highlight abuse against real life tanukis and, in small part, the dangerous anti-animal trends in modern videogames.
"We know how beloved Mario is - we are huge Mario fans ourselves! We were a little surprised that the game was taken so literally by some, but we're thrilled that we're able to bring so much attention to raccoon dogs whose suffering is very real," said Palmer.
PETA's pseudo-retraction is better than nothing, but considering gamers weren't so much upset by the allegations as they were about the fact PETA piggybacked on a beloved franchise to get free publicity, it may still be missing the point. That said, whether you agree with their tactics or not, PETA's campaign got a lot of people talking.
And maybe... just maybe... a few innocent tanukis were saved.