Virtual meat hooks, flame throwers, and propane bombs are OK, but attack dogs are not: social-gaming behemoth Zynga has removed pit bulls from its roster of virtual weaponry in the Mafia Wars game after a complaint last month on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
PETA's reasoning is that promoting a domestic animal as a weapon will only encourage misunderstanding and abuse of pit bulls, which have been routinely used in illegal dog-fighting activities and are often subject to horrific conditions as their owners attempt to toughen them up. The breed of dog has gotten bad press from a number of human fatalities, which animal rights advocates counter with the argument that the offending canines were mistreated in the first place.
A release Friday from PETA says that it's "sending vegan chocolates to Zynga founder and CEO Mark Pincus to thank him for his compassionate decision."
"Depicting 'man's best friend' as a fighting machine can encourage the wrong type of people--those with no heart and no understanding of a dog's needs--to treat these wonderful animals as inanimate objects," PETA executive Tracy Reiman said in a release from the company last month when the organization originally complained. "If Mark Pincus--who named his company after his own beloved dog, Zinga--can't portray dogs as loyal and loving members of the family, we'd rather he left them out of the game altogether." A blog post from PETA noted that in another one of Zynga's games, YoVille, proceeds from purchasing a virtual bulldog are donated to the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The complaint was likely more of a PR move than an attempt to change the world--and an easy argument for PETA to make considering Pincus' openness about being a dog lover. But the organization's beef with Mafia Wars may not yet be over: The inclusion of additional animals like lions and tigers was a big Mafia Wars announcement (they come in "Vicious Crates" and are "dropping from jobs, fighting and robbing"--yep, sounds like my cat!) and there's an additional virtual item in the form of a "bloody horse head" as made famous by an iconic scene in "The Godfather."