Animal rights group PETA has defended its anti-Mario campaign, in which the Nintendo character was accused of "sending the message that it's OK to wear fur" for sporting a Tanooki suit, describing its intentions as "tongue-in-cheek." In an email from PETA's media coordinator to gaming site Kotaku, the headline-grabbing claims and gory mini-game was said to be "a fun way to call attention to a serious issue, that raccoon dogs are skinned alive for their fur."
"We wish real-life tanukis could fly or swat enemies away with their tails and escape from those who profit from their skins" PETA's Shakira Croce continued, referring to the raccoon dogs that closely resemble that Tanooki suit and which are skinned alive to harvest their fur. "You can help them by never buying real fur."
Although over 250,000 people apparently played the mini-game in the first 36hrs it was available, PETA spokesperson Ashley Palmer said, the organization was still taken aback by the extreme reactions it prompted amongst gamers. "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" she told the site.
Whether PETA's apparent back-track on its more aggressive claims will pacify gamers - or, indeed, those animal rights supporters who accused the organization of spending donations on gimmicks and PR hyperbole - remains to be seen.