Pokemon Battles: Is the Concept Humane?

It took me a shameful amount of time to understand some of the concepts in this series and why they work. Part of it is due to the lack of context over the years, but Pokemon has been subject to controversy over the years, such as the concept of evolution and the fact that trainers battle their Pokemon. It wasn’t until Pokemon Origins happened that I understood Nintendo’s point of view on the subject.

Among the groups which have attempted to slander the concepts of Pokemon, PETA is one of the more notorious opponents of the series, mainly for releasing a satirical game known as “Pokemon Black and Blue” during the development of Black and White. While animal care and awareness is good, there are key differences between cockfighting and dogfights and a Pokemon battle. Most importantly, the animals in the aforementioned activities have no idea that they’re taking part in a fight governed by human beings. Often, they’re tricked into thinking that they’re fighting over a mate and placed in a ring. Pokemon, however, are aware that they’re in a battle, and any self-respecting trainer does what he can to take care of their creatures. They ensure that they’re fed and respected, and make intelligent choices in battle to protect them. Finally, in most cases, the Pokemon agree that the trainer and themselves are a team. You can easily see this throughout the main anime, when Pikachu will acknowledge that he’s up for the particular battle Ash is in.

Why battle then? Why not bring your Pokemon home and treat them as normal pets? Some people do so in the series. Trainers develop themselves and their Pokemon through purposely traveling through a particular country or a region of a country, allowing the adversity to make stronger individuals of themselves and their Pokemon. This includes other trainers who wish to do the same. This is especially apparent in Sun and Moon, where full-grown adults are amazed by the strength that an 11-year-old child has from traveling the region.

Competition and challenge are all apart of life, and this series embraces those truths to demonstrate the potential. Many of the greatest people in the real world achieved their abilities through constant tests and obstacles. Pokemon is simply a beautifully exaggerated example of what can happen when someone takes the challenge.

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7 thoughts on “Pokemon Battles: Is the Concept Humane?

  1. Excellent post. And you did well conveying your position in this Pokemon controversy. I grew up playing the Pokemon games. I still play now and then (when I have the time and I’m off), but not so often anymore. I think it’s an amazing concept. I agree with you saying that the Pokemon understand and they have an agreement—a partnership—with their trainers to battle other Pokemon. Completely different from dog/cockfights where the poor animals are just forced for the sole entertainment of humans. Great post. I really enjoyed reading it. Keep it up. And of course, thank you for submitting this post to my blog carnival. Cheers!

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  2. I’ve never understood the controversy behind pokemon battles, I’d say the part where you wrote that pokemon agree that they are part of a team with their trainer really captures my thoughts on why I wouldn’t call it inhumane. Pokemon battles could be seen as caring for and putting pokemon in a position to be leaders and Ash releasing his newly evolved Pidgeot is an example that comes to mind. Your last sentence definitely explains the concept well.

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    1. When something becomes too popular, it usually gets some negative attention as well. This series has had banned episodes, banned trading cards *cough* Kadabra *cough*, recolors such as Jynx from black to purple, etc.

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  3. that’s an interesting way of thinking about this issue, and i think the comparison to dogfighting is valid, but it might get dismissed too easily. i would argue that unless pokemon inherently have an instinct for fighting each other, then a newly captured pokemon is equally being goaded into a fight without understanding that it’s a fight governed by human beings. i think that the way we treat dogs as pets is similar to how a pokemon is treated, fed and housed and treated like a “partner”, so i think that comparison is pretty strong.

    that being said, i think that fiction is fiction, so i dont have a particularly strong moral judgment here. im much more curious what the people in the pokemon world eat.

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  4. I’ve not paid much attention to Pokemon over the years (no, not even when Pokemon Go became all the rage) so I’ve never heard of the controversy, nor have I thought about how it may relate to real life events. So it was very interesting to see your take on the topic. Great analysis, thanks for sharing.

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