#GottaFreeEmAll: Pokémon Go criticised by PETA for 'animal cruelty' parallels

PETA has designated its LA offices a 'safe Pokémon zone' Credit: PETA

Pokémon Go users have been warned that playing the popular smartphone game is akin to animal cruelty.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has seized what it called a "teachable moment" in comparing the treatment of the cartoon characters to the way animals suffer in real life.

"Catching Pokémon really isn’t much different from taking animals out of the wild and putting them in zoos, circuses, and other places that exploit and abuse them," the organisation wrote in a blog post.

The original game taught children about dominance instead of compassion, they added - and said they hoped people's enthusiasm for its new incarnation could be harnessed into passion for helping animals in the real world.

To help raise awareness, PETA has designated its LA offices a 'safe Pokémon zone' - with no capturing nor fighting allowed on its premises.

A series of posters have been put up outside, lamenting how the creatures are "torn from their families and held captive in Pokéballs", while the tongue-in-cheek hashtag #GottaFreeEmAll - a spin on the game's catchphrase 'Gotta catch 'em all' - is being used to raise awareness on social media.

The organisation has even launched its own parody version of the game, in which a bruised and battered Pikachu is sent on a mission to take down a series of scientists and hunters and free all their Pokémon.

Using weapons such as 'petition' and 'shame', the Pokémon are hit with attacks including 'dissection' and 'choke collar'.

In the parody game, Pikachu battles collectors and scientists Credit: PETA

"PETA trusts in players’ ability to understand that Pokémon aren’t real, so no animals are in danger from the game," the organisation said.

"But it would be wonderful if Nintendo could leverage the passion that people have for fictional Pokémon to help real-life captive animals, such as the orcas imprisoned at SeaWorld or the tigers who live behind bars in the Ringling Bros. circus."