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Media Essays: Why Pokémon Does NOT Promote Animal Abuse

Title card for the essay

How is it we're in 2023 and it seems there are still morons out there who believe the whole "Pokémon promotes animal abuse" bullcrap? You'd think we'd have learnt our lessons by now...

OK, so this requires an explanation. I'm sure any of you that has at least heard of Pokémon has heard at least one common misconception and stock parody joke about it, and that is "Pokémon promotes animal abuse!" It is quite literally the oldest joke made about the franchise and is frankly one of the dumbest, most objectively wrong statements ever made in regards to it. It was dumb when people said it in the 90's and it's still dumb now. We would make fun of PETA for believing in this crap for crying out loud! And despite the fact the franchise itself has gone of its way to disprove this idiotic proclamation, there are STILL people out there who believe it or make jokes about that misconception! Even Miraculous Ladybug's creator is jumping on that bandwagon!

So yeah, even in the 2020's this stigma is still a thing and that annoys me. X(

And that's why we're here. This is me disproving these idiotic claims about "Pokémon promotes animal abuse" and laying down why this is such a wrong statement about the franchise that only makes you look like an idiot to us Pokémon fans or sounds like something you'd say to intentionally tick off Pokémon fans.

I'm the Media Man and here is why Pokémon does NOT promote animal abuse...

1: Pokémon battles are 100% consensual between both parties

Ash and Pikachu

You may have heard this joke about the franchise as well, that Pokémon is essentially about kids forcing fantastical creatures into legalized cockfights. This is why we have the whole stigma about it promoting animal abuse or encouraging things like dog-fighting and cock-fighting. It's ridiculous people believe this and only shows you're an ignorant sod who needs to actually watch an episode of the anime or play the games to see that it's not like that at all.

In the Pokémon world, battles are 100% consensual between both sides. Unlike dogs and chickens or other animals we used to train to fight for our amusement back in ye olde days, Pokémon ARE sentient enough to be able to give consent for battles. If they want to fight, they can voice their desire to do so. If they don't want to fight, they can and WILL refuse to do so and will willingly ignore their trainers if they don't want to fight. Need I remind you about Ash's Charizard and how that thing loved to ignore him any chance it got? Pokémon may still be essentially animals but they're more sentient than regular animals and are able to give consent. That's the important thing that makes this NOT like dog-fighting and cock-fighting. People who used to do that made those animals fight to the death, which was barbaric, beastly and immoral and the poor animals weren't able to object to this treatment. They just followed orders from their trainers and had no say in the matter. Pokémon battles are more like a spectator sport similar to wrestling, not a fight to the death (unless it's a villain using a Pokémon to try killing anyone of course) and they DO have a say in what goes on while being able to refuse to participate if they don't want to.

Also, take into account that not everyone uses Pokémon for battling either. Some people pretty much just keep Pokémon as pets more akin to a dog-owner or a cat-owner and some people just use Pokémon for everyday jobs. It's not always about battling in this world and Pokémon are able to give their consent in these situations too.

The only thing that makes it animal abuse is if the Pokémon refuses to fight and the trainer forces them to do it anyway but as any Pokémon fan can tell you, those people are ALWAYS treated as wrong for doing this. Speaking of...

2: Actual Pokémon abusers are portrayed as villains for their behaviour

Tepig abandoned by Shamus

Whenever anybody thinks "Pokémon promotes animal abuse", this is what they're referring to. The ones who actually abuse their Pokémon and treat them like crap.

This sounds obvious to me but apparently it's not obvious to anyone who still spews this ridiculous stigma so it bears repeating: whenever anybody does actually abuse any Pokémon in the games or the anime or any piece of media, they're ALWAYS characterized as the most despicable, deplorable pieces of garbage that ever roamed the earth. Characters like Damian from "Charmander the Stray Pokémon" or Shamus from Pokémon The Series: Black and White or Cross in the movie Pokémon The Movie: I Choose You! are all cruel jerks who abandon Pokémon for being "useless" in their eyes and the stories they're in make no attempts whatsoever to make them sympathetic or redeemable or anything like that. The message this franchise basically gives you is "If you abuse Pokémon, you're worse than Hitler and you WILL suffer the consequences for your actions!" These characters are always called out for their actions by the heroes and by authority figures like Nurse Joy and they usually tend to suffer a comedic misfortune or a karmic comeuppance at the hands of the Pokémon they abused as punishment for their behaviour.

And then you have someone like Paul in where he may not be a villain, the series does call him out in his behaviour and unlike the examples I mentioned earlier, he DID eventually stop being cruel and abusive to his Pokémon and started treating them more nicely to the point where come his return in Pokémon Journeys, he lets his Electivire go play with other Pokémon and when his Gyarados and Metagross lost to Ash's Lucario and Gengar respectively, he still complimented them on a good fight. Paul was treated as wrong for what he did and it wasn't until he stopped abusing his Pokémon when he started achieving better results like his Lake Acuity and League battles in where he displays a more calculating and strategic battle style and isn't so much on brute force tactics like before. Also he gets defeated by Ash's Infernape, a Pokémon he originally abandoned for what he believed to be "useless". Getting defeated by a Pokémon he once dismissed as "pathetic" proper showed how wrong he was to abuse it and he's been humbled so much since then.

And then you have actual villains like Team Rocket in where despite being the bad guys, they still show more affection and love for their Pokémon than the abusers do, which only serves to show how truly evil those people are when they make the VILLAINS look good by comparison. Even in Pokémon Horizons, we see that The Explorers treat their Pokémon better than the abusive people do with Spinel especially showing genuine affection to his Umbreon. This just shows that the Pokémon franchise determines how evil you are by how you treat your Pokémon and those that treat them poorly are shown in the worst light of them all.

If this franchise truly promotes animal abuse, then why are the ACTUAL abusers treated in such a negative light or characterized in a way that makes us want to see them get their faces smashed into the dirt for their terrible behaviour? Why are those that abuse Pokémon constantly treated as wrong for their actions and punished accordingly for what they've done? And why did they have Paul get defeated by a Pokémon he abandoned and humbled by the loss to the point he's now a nicer trainer and doesn't abuse his Pokémon anymore? That's right, BECAUSE THIS FRANCHISE IS AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN AGAINST ANIMAL ABUSE!!! If this franchise truly promoted animal abuse, they would make it out that our heroes are always wrong to question their horrible treatment of their Pokémon and try to justify their actions but no, they never do this and that's because this franchise never has promoted animal abuse, not even when it first came out.

3: There's a medical centre that caters specifically for Pokémon

Pokemon Centre

For those that believe in this ridiculous stigma of Pokémon promoting animal abuse, I guarantee those people either aren't aware of what a Pokémon Centre is or just choose to ignore it because it doesn't suit their narrative. Whichever one it is, it doesn't matter as both options are terrible.

Anyway, the Pokémon franchise has established since its very genesis that there's an entire healthcare system devoted to taking care of Pokémon and healing them back up after a long hard battle. Pokémon Centres are a franchise staple and in the games and the anime, you'll always see characters taking Pokémon to one of these centres in order to get healthcare and medical treatment for their Pokémon after they've been injured in a fight. While some might try and act like this is still an example of animal abuse because we humans put them in these situations in the first place but I reiterate, Pokémon CAN refuse to fight if they want to and this is hardly any different from us humans needing medical treatment after suffering injuries when boxing or wrestling with one another. It's not considered abusive for us humans to be in those kinds of fighting sports where we need a hospital to treat us after a tough fight so how is that any different from Pokémon battles? Again, Pokémon consent to these fights as much as humans give their consent for wrestling matches. There is literally zero difference here. Also Pokémon Centres will take care of and heal Pokémon after more than just battles too.

Also remember, in the games and also in the anime, you can buy items specifically catered to healing injured Pokémon like potions, berries, herbs and more and there are items you can use to revive Pokémon that have fainted. It's almost like the franchise encourages you to be nice to Pokémon and to take good care of them which goes against the very idea of them promoting animal abuse, isn't it? =P

If the Pokémon world was truly as abusive as the naysayers claim it is, then why do we have an entire healthcare system in place that's all about taking care of Pokémon after a fight and healing them back to full health? It's no different to having vets and animal hospitals to heal injured animals after a fight or suffering abuse at the hands of humans or freak weather accidents. If this franchise really promoted animal abuse, then the Pokémon Centre wouldn't have been invented in the first place. They'd just make you and your Pokémon battle one another and have no means of ever healing them up afterwards. But no, we not only have that but the games encourage the player to take care of their Pokémon by healing them up with items, reviving them with items or even taking them to a Pokémon Centre to get better and the anime includes all this stuff too.

4: The franchise preaches HEAVILY about the importance of your bond and friendship with your Pokémon and portrays that as your true strength

Liko and Sprigatito

Anyone who says the franchise is all about battles and making your magical pets beat the crap out of each other has a grossly over-simplified view on Pokémon and needs to actually indulge in this franchise beyond whatever stock parody joke anyone says in a pathetic attempt at being funny.

Yes the franchise is mostly about battling and training your Pokémon to be strong fighters, but the franchise's primary message and what it preaches above all else is the value of friendship and how your TRUE strength comes from the bond you share with your Pokémon. This has been apparent since the first game and even the every beginning of the anime so it's not like the franchise has never done this. While yes Pokémon do battle each other to show off their true strengths and all that, the heroes are the ones who always treat their Pokémon with kindness and love and when training their Pokémon, they value support, teamwork and cooperation with each other above just brute strength and getting the best results and if their Pokémon lose, they just congratulate them on a good battle and encourage them to try again next time. It's these wonderful moral values that make this franchise endlessly appealing for people like me and they're good morals to live by.

Now compare this to characters who don't value the bond with their Pokémon and just use them as tools to do their bidding or value strength above all else. Those characters are either viewed in a negative light, are looked down upon for not valuing friendship with their Pokémon or are straight up villains. Most of the time, our heroes will beat these people because the bond with their Pokémon is what truly makes them strong and it shows by treating Pokémon with kindness and love, you will get better results than if you treat them like crap and don't view them as your friends. Why do you think Ash eventually beat Paul after losing to him so many times? Or why do you think Ash and his companions will often one-up their rivals in battles? Or why do you think in the games and the anime, the villains ALWAYS get defeated by the hero in the end? And especially why do you think Ash eventually achieved his goal and became a Pokémon Master after a close, intense fight with Leon in last year's Pokémon Journeys series? It's because these people practice what the franchise preaches in focusing as much on the bond you have with your Pokémon as it does with the strength they have.

Oh and need I forget some Pokémon in both the games AND the anime can only evolve if they're really, really happy and have a close friendship with you? That doesn't sound very abusive to me! =P Some Pokémon such as Togepi, Golbat, Riolu and more have to have high levels of friendship with you, the player, in order to evolve and at least three evolutions of Eevee require high friendship levels in order to obtain them. These evolutions practically encourage you to be nice and friendly to your Pokémon in order to get them and the anime keeps these mechanics to further hit this point home. I mean Serena's Eevee evolved into a Sylveon precisely because it was so close to her and they were so friendly with each other, just like how in the games you need to do that to evolve Eevee into Sylveon. And to use another example from Pokémon Horizons, one of the Explorers actually owns an Umbreon, thus proving that as evil as he is, at least he doesn't abuse his Pokémon and must have a close bond with it because his Eevee evolved into an Umbreon, another Pokémon that can only evolve with high friendship. And then you have the 3-D games where they have options to give your Pokémon massages, grooming and food to raise up their friendship levels and during gameplay, you'll outright get REWARDED for how close your bond with your Pokémon is with Pokémon being able to avoid attacks in time to your shout, surviving an attack that would've wiped them out or overcoming a status condition through sheer force of will because they're that close to you. Kinda weird that a franchise that supposedly promotes animal abuse encourages you to do nice things to your Pokémon isn't it?

Yes the whole "Power of Friendship" thing might be cliché and cheesy as all hell but dammit all if it's not what makes these medias so appealing to watch half the time! If the franchise really wanted to promote animal abuse, then nobody would treat their Pokémon as friends, even the heroes, and it would reward them all for this kind of cold, callous and aloof behaviour. For those who truly understand this franchise, Pokémon aren't slaves that do people's bidding, especially if they're owned by the heroes. They're their friends and the bond between trainer and Pokémon is greater than any power on Earth. Speaking of slaves, that brings me to my last point...

5: Pokémon AREN'T slaves and have enough free will to choose to leave if they want

Pikachu refuses to go in its ball

This is a point that I don't think people address enough when defending the franchise and disproving the animal abuse misconception so I'll address it here.

The whole stigma about Pokémon promoting animal abuse basically boils down to how we beat them up, catch them and stuff them in tiny balls and force them to fight for our amusement. Once again, this is the sort of thing you'd say if you had only the vaguest understanding of the franchise. What many people don't know or forget about is that Pokémon AREN'T slaves and are sentient enough to give consent when needed. Just because we catch them in Pokéballs, it doesn't mean they're 100% obedient and subservient to us. Pokémon CAN object to what they're told to do and they CAN abandon and leave their trainers without their permission. You'll see on some occasions in the anime that Pokémon can leave their balls whenever they feel like it and they can refuse to be returned to their Pokéballs when asked to do so. Why else do you think Ash's Pikachu never goes in its Pokéball? Because it chooses not to go in and as demonstrated in one episode of Pokémon Journeys where Pikachu ran away out of jealousy, he leaves Ash of his own free will and runs off all the way back to Pallet Town to Ash's mum. If Pokémon truly were slaves and subjugated by humanity, Pikachu wouldn't have been able to do that.

A better example I can give is Damian from "Charmander the Stray Pokémon" all the way back in the first series. He may have abandoned Charmander, yes, but he didn't technically release it and when he told Charmander to come back with him, Charmander was able to refuse that request and defy Damian's orders, even burning him alive with a Flamethrower for his troubles. Then after that, he went off with Ash and the rest was history. If Pokémon truly were slaves then Damian could've just returned Charmander to its Pokéball without any resistance and gone about his day with no trouble. The way I see it, Pokéballs are a way to register a Pokémon is yours so people don't go trying to catch other people's Pokémon as a way to prevent thefts from occurring and it also helps identify if a Pokémon is wild or not. Also Pokéballs make for a safe and easy way to carry Pokémon around with you everywhere you go as it's not always easy to take Pokémon places, especially the really big ones. They're not a means to imprison Pokémon or a tool to enslave Pokémon or anything like that. Again, they CAN leave if they want to, they're not forced to stay in them all the time. If this franchise was truly about promoting and encouraging animal abuse then Pokéballs would've been given a more sinister purpose and really would've been depicted as essentially capsule-sized prisons and not a means for easy transport and Pokémon wouldn't be able to leave to abandon their trainers if they wanted to.


So there you have it. Pokémon does NOT and NEVER has promoted or glorified animal abuse and it does not encourage animal-fighting. This is a misconception that is as dead as any non-comic book fan joking about how useless Aquaman is and it's about time people stopped it with this joke because it was never funny and all it does is annoy Pokémon fans that know the franchise is nothing like that. The franchise promotes love, friendship, bonding with your partners and how failure is not the end of the journey and only people who truly love and understand this franchise will get that. If anyone out there is still going to make dumb jokes like how Pokémon promotes animal abuse or is all about animal abuse? Then all you're doing is making YOURSELF the joke because anyone who watches the anime or plays the game for five minutes can tell you how wrong you are. If you want to keep promoting this ridiculous stigma and making dumb jokes like this, then prepare to be laughed at because the only joke around here is anyone who believes in such objectively wrong beliefs like this...

And that's all I have for this essay. Sorry if I sound like a whiny brat who's complaining over nothing but it needed to be said. Feel free to share your thoughts down below. Do you agree that Pokémon doesn't promote animal abuse? Do you disagree with my defences or do you have your own points in favour of what I've said? I'd love to hear all about it.

Next week I'll be reviewing the next DCEU movie, Blue Beetle and also giving you 10 more facts about Disney. see you then media fans!

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Aug 18, 2023

Quite a good article you did, and I learnt some things here, and I’m kinda baffled as to how there are bad guys in Pokémon yet the complainers aren't mentioning. Ffs.


Jacob Coad
Jacob Coad
Aug 18, 2023

Brilliant points you made, buddy. I wouldn't have put it any better. :D


Yeah, you def said why that argument is null and void. But sometimes people just stir manure up for no reason.

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