No one is safe from the impassioned campaigning of PETA— not even fictional characters. The animal rights group have announced that they're currently petitioning Games Workshop to overhaul the design of their fantasy Warhammer characters that are shown to wear animal furs due to the unethical message it sends to gamers.
Warhammer 40,000 is a tabletop RPG strategy game created by Games Workshop. Set in the dystopian 41st Century, it involves an array of miniature figures in a sci-fi fantasy realm that battle it out in a violent struggle for power.
PETA recently released a statement on their website, which detailed their attempts to contact Games Workshop CEO Kevin Rountree in an attempt to ban the wearing of pelts for Warhammer character figurines:
"While we appreciate that they are fictional, draping them in what looks like a replica of a dead animal sends the message that wearing fur is acceptable – when, in fact, it has no more place in 2017 than it would in the year 40,000."
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Look, there's nothing wrong with PETA's opposition to fur. Fur farms are both awful and unnecessary, and the world would most definitely be a better place without them. But does this same logic apply to a fictional fantasy realm that's already steeped in violence?
Let's take a look at PETA's argument against Warhammer and see if their claims really do match up:
1. There Are No Fur Farms In 'Warhammer'
The Warhammer universe is centred around — you guessed it — war. Violence, dismay and danger are key to its dystopian setting, and there isn't a single character spared from its unspeakable horrors.
Despite being set in the year 40,000AD, the post-apocalyptic world is far more primal than the one we live in now. In fact, of the many horrors to be encountered in Warhammer's chaotic realm, fur farms are not one of them. Those animal pelts most likely came from animals trapped in the wild.
Of course, PETA aren't just opposed to fur farms; they're vehemently against the killing of animals in any way. That may be all well and good in the real world, but there are certain environments that require the killing of animals for survival— like the dangerous wilderness of Warhammer, where the danger lurking around every corner includes an array of extremely dangerous creatures. It's kill or be killed, and it's more than likely that the pelts worn by Warhammer's warriors were obtained from some sort of survival situation.
Then again, perhaps PETA's next request will be to overhaul Warhammer to depict the enslavement of humans, orks and aliens at the hands (or paws) of its furry fiends. Elf pelts, anyone?
2. PETA Still Encourages Faux Fur
In order to dissuade consumers from supporting the fur industry with their money, PETA have plenty of recommendations for faux fur brands on their website, touting it as a great way to still enjoy the look and warmth of fur without buying it.
But doesn't fake fur still promote the killing of animals for fashion? Isn't it still a representation of animal suffering? Well, not really. Faux fur is an impersonation of something horrible, that can still be enjoyed without the attached negativity of the real deal.
The same can be said for Warhammer. Its core concept is derived from the most terrible thing our planet has ever known — war — but in a way that's quite harmless. And no, there's no evidence-based link between playing violent games and actually committing violence, because most gamers can actually distinguish between fantasy and reality— and yes, that includes tabletop gamers.
3. Fur Isn't Even The Most Barbaric Thing In 'Warhammer'
PETA claims that "wearing the skins of dead animals doesn’t take any skill", and thus has no place in Warhammer. While this at first seems like a compliment, it's far from accurate.
Sure, the characters from Warhammer are undoubtedly skilled in combat. However, their skills largely include controlling, torturing and massacring each other— the exact same basic principles of the horrifying fur farms that PETA often turn their attention to. PETA may say that the act of killing an animal for its fur in the Warhammer universe "just doesn't add up", but anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the game can tell you that just isn't true.
In fact, a lot of things PETA mentioned in their statement suggests that they aren't actually very familiar with the game at all:
"Indeed, nothing on the bloody battlefields of Warhammer’s conflict-ravaged universe could match the terrible reality that foxes, minks, rabbits, and other living beings experience at the hands of the fur trade."
Forced sterilization, genocide and even skinning humans to wear as accessories is all part of the daily rigmarole in the Warhammer universe. These regular acts of violence are at least on par with the brutal struggles of a fur farm animal. Come to think of it, the animals in Warhammer probably live better lives than all the other characters combined.
But hey, who needs logic when your ads feature Alicia Silverstone swimming naked in a pool for literally no reason?
4. PETA Are Only Alienating Their Potential Audience
There's absolutely nothing wrong with critiquing fiction of any medium. But if you're going to criticize something as revered and massive as Warhammer, you'll probably want to have a pretty good idea of what you're calling out. Unfortunately, PETA's statement indicates that they're pretty clueless on the subject matter.
This doesn't just make do damage to their own reputation — which has already been dealt some massive blows in the past — but alienates a huge potential audience: gamers.
The tabletop gaming community is a pretty large one, and Warhammer is an important part of that community. If PETA wants the gaming community to work with them, they're going to need to make more of an effort to understand it. Sadly, PETA have instead opted for publicity through shock value, and it's having a fairly predictable impact on the gaming community— as you can see from this classic comment on their Warhammer blog post:
What do you think of PETA's campaign against Warhammer?