Pokémon and Animal Rights
Does Pokémon condone animal abuse?
In Asian cultures, animals are simply seen as food or a nuisance to have rather than companions. I was lucky to have goldfish and snails as a kid but my love for animals was largely due to the things I watched; Animal Planet, Disney Movies, and of course Pokémon. At some point every Pokémon fan has wished that Pokémon were real but take a look around, animals that have inspired these pocket monsters are all around us. During the quarantine, I had the chance to re-watch the anime and read the manga and was surprised to find how the relationship between trainer and Pokémon, the science and the morals greatly align with animal rights.
PETA is a well-known animal rights organization who is against all things Pokémon. In the past they had released a parody game titled "Pokémon Black & Blue -Gotta Free Them All." The description of the game is "For generations, Pokémon have suffered at the hands of their cruel trainers. Help PETA free Pikachu and his Pokémon friends as they struggle for Pokémon Liberation!" From the point of view of a person who never played or watched Pokémon, I understand how capturing and making Pokémon fight each other can be seen as abuse but there is so much more to that. In Pokémon Adventures, Pokémon are comrades, friends, and partners; trainers and their Pokémon work together to become stronger and better versions of themselves.
People in the animal rights movement believe that "animals are not outs to use for food, clothing, entertainment, or experimentation." Team Rocket is the villain group of Pokémon. They steal, poach, experiment on Pokémon for profit. As an animal educator I often tell kids that it is unkind to take animals out of the wild. This is why in the anime I love how most of Ash's Pokémon are the one's who to choose to follow Ash on his journey. In one of my favorite episodes Ash let's go of his Butterfree, the one who he helped to train and evolve from a Caterpie, in order so that he can join the other Butterfrees to cross the sea and mate. Similarly, below is a video of Jessie saying goodbye to Dustox. The catchphrase of the franchise is "Gotta catch em' all' and wild Pokémon are always being caught but that phrase to me doesn't literally mean to catch all the Pokémon. One of the goal's of a trainer is to complete the Pokédex, which is an encyclopedia that give information about all the Pokémon in the works. The more they travel, the more Pokémon they will encounter and that information has the potential to help and benefit Pokémon.
Yellow is a character in the manga who has the gift to communicate and heal Pokémon; she does not like the idea of battling or even evolving them, but she realizes she must do in order to fight those who truly exploit Pokémon. We first meet her lost and scared in a forest filled with Pokémon. She is saved by Red who helps her capture her first Pokémon and tells her, "Pokémon can be scary but they're basically kind, loving creatures... if their owners are bad and train their Pokémon to bad things then they will grow up to be bad too. But if you raise them with kindness and gentleness then they'll always be your friends." She trains with her friends and defeats Lance of the Elite Four who's mission is to eliminate all humans and create a world for Pokémon. He swore revenge after seeing how construction and pollution were hurting the land and Pokémon in his area.
I currently work at an indoor petting zoo in NYC, where I am an animal humane educator. My job is to bring animals to classrooms and teach city kids about animals and how to be kind to them. Some of these kids whom never saw a real chicken in person before or gently petted a mouse are sometimes even scared of animals to the point which they cry. Reading Pokémon Adventures and seeing how closely it's message and world aligns with ours helped me to realize better my goals in life. I hope to learn more about animals to help me understand them better and in doing so I hope to inspire others just like Red helped to inspire Yellow and build my relationships with the animals in my life. In my opinion, Pokémon does not condone animal abuse in any way shape or form but in fact it does the exact opposite.
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