Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has set its sights on iconic video game character Mario for wearing fur in Nintendo’s latest 3DS game Super Mario 3D Land.
Since the game launched Sunday, the organization has launched a scathing online campaign entitled “Mario Kills Tanooki.” In Nintendo's new game, Mario sometimes dons the skin of a tanooki, which is a Japanese raccoon dog.
“Tanooki may be just a suit in the game, but in real life tanuki are raccoon dogs who are skinned alive for their fur,” PETA’s site states. “By wearing a Tanooki, Mario is sending the message that it is OK to wear fur.”
To make their point, the site also features a disturbing video of real tanuki being abused by workers in the Japanese fur trade accompanied by a image of a bloodied Mario holding the head of a dead raccoon dog.
The jarring imagery falls in line with PETA’s aggressive and often controversial media campaigns. As part of its anti-fur action, members have attacked fashion shows with red paint. The organization has also vigorously recruited celebrities and supermodels to pose for the group’s “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign.
For Nintendo, the raccoon suit isn’t a fresh development. Mario first wore a Tanooki in 1988 with the release of Super Mario Bros. 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
In both games, the suits typically spring from special magic squares in the form of a feather.
"Mario often takes the appearance of certain animals and objects in his games," a Nintendo spokesman told Eurogamer in a statement. “These have included a frog, a penguin, a balloon and even a metallic version of himself.”
“These lighthearted and whimsical transformations give Mario different abilities and make his games fun to play. The different forms that Mario takes make no statement beyond the games themselves."