In an open letter to the makers of Farming Simulator 17, PETA are asking them not to censor the ‘nightmarish reality of pigs raised for their flesh’
I don’t know your eating habits. I don’t know if you are a meat eater, a pescatariana, a vegetarian, or a vegan. What I do know is that most people care somewhat about animal cruelty, and most people (especially those reading articles on this site), love playing video games. Generally, however, animal cruelty and video games are not combined. There are no disclaimers, like you get in films, such as ‘no animals were harmed in the playing of this game’.
PETA, the animal rights association that does sterling work in highlighting some of the most atrocious treatment of animals across the globe, has turned a part of its focus onto the games industry. Not of its treatment of animals as such, but in its games and as a way of communicating to its audience.
Following the announcement that the massively popular Farming Simulator 17 will include pig farming, PETA sent a letter to Christian Ammann, the Managing Director of Switzerland-based GIANTS Software GmbH, asking that video footage from abattoirs be included. In the letter, PETA point out that to give players an accurate depiction of the industry, the game will need to show that ‘pigs are killed by being hung upside down, stabbed, and dropped into scalding-hot water.’
“Farming Simulator 17 should either show the nightmarish reality endured by pigs at the abattoir or change into Vegan Farming Simulator 17 and let players grow crops – to do anything else would be dishonest”
Harriet Barclay, the PETA European Outreach Liaison, said that PETA “urges anyone who considers pig-slaughter footage too gruesome to include in a simulator game to rid their real-life plates of animal corpses and switch to cruelty-free vegan foods.”
Now, I am not sure exactly how I feel about this. For the most part, I see games as an escape from the harsh realities of the world; a way of switching off from the ‘war, death, famine’ news-feeds that we are constantly surrounded by, either on the news channels or on social media. However, I do take the point that if the game is a simulator then it should cover all bases of the field that it is aiming to simulate.
I haven’t played any of the previous incarnations of Farming Simulator, and it is doubtful that I will be playing Farming Simulator 17 (it just isn’t my type of game), but it does claim to offer a truly immersive farming experience. As well as letting you drive many farming vehicles, and harvest your crops, (including sunflowers and soy beans apparently, which is nice), it also allows you to take care of your livestock. This includes cows, sheep, chicken and, now, pigs. I’m assuming that when you look after your livestock in FM17, it means looking after them in a humane way; feeding them, keeping them well etc. Not battery farming, or abusing the animals. But PETA wants you to face the harsh realities of farming and, particularly in this case, the treatment and killing of pigs. It wants you to experience all aspects of pig farming, including what happens to pigs when they’re sent to slaughter.
PETA has documented repeatedly that on factory farms, mother pigs are forcibly impregnated over and over again and confined to farrowing crates so small that they can’t even turn around. Each litter is torn away from the mother after only a few weeks, and the piglets’ teeth are clipped or ground down and their tails cut off without painkillers. At the abattoir, pigs are hung upside down prior to being killed. Workers are in such a hurry that they often fail to stun them adequately, which allows them to wake up while still bleeding to death and being plunged into boiling water.
Now, obviously, this sounds absolutely terrible, but I am not going to be a complete hypocrite. I eat meat, I eat bacon, I eat sausages. My wife and youngest daughter, however, are pescatariana. The don’t eat land animals or birds, but do eat fish. Because of this, we have had many a conversation about the treatment of animals on some farms, and some of it is indeed disgraceful. But does that mean that you should include all of that in the game? Yes, games have become increasingly realistic in the last few years, but do we need them to be that realistic? Do you need suicides on train simulators? Drunken fights on flight simulators? Revenge porn in The Sims after a bad break up?
The previous foray in gaming from PETA in recent times was the glorious Meat is Murder, which combined The Smiths song with a fun little game where you save various animals from instant death at the hands of whirling saws with bolts of rainbows (yes, really). That song, which is 30 years old now (and making me feel old), has the lyrics “the flesh you so fancifully fry is not succulent, or kind, it’s death for no reason, and death for no reason is murder”. Although this was fun to play, and included messages and videos on the site about animal abuse (see the video below, which is hard to watch), it’s different to what PETA is urging Christian Amman to implement.
PETA say in their letter that “if you think that the gruesome nature of pig slaughter would be too upsetting for your audience, we suggest that instead of sugar- coating the subject, Farming 17 should solely simulate crop farming, in which no animals are confined, beaten, or slaughtered, turning Farming 17 into Vegan Farming 17.”
Reading that, and thinking about the game, I can completely see their point. For once, though, I am still a little undecided about this with argument and counter-argument bouncing around my brain. If anything, at least it does bring the issue of some farming atrocities to the fore again, and highlights the reality of abattoirs. Even if, as I suspect, the makers of Farming Simulator 17 politely refuse their request to include the footage in the game.