The world's largest animal rights group has gotten into the virtual reality game with a factory farming simulator that allows participants to assume the role of a chicken that's about to get slaughtered.
It's certainly not subtle, but PETA isn't known much for its subtlety: In I, Chicken, participants are asked to flap their wings and walk around from the poultry's perspective in order to get a feel for what it's like to be a farm animal. In the demo I viewed, the player was asked to hang out and interact with other chickens in an open field, presumably to show that chickens are, in fact, social animals.
Obviously, things take a turn for the worst, when a farmer grabs the participant and shoves him or her into a cage with a bunch of other shaking chickens, and you eventually go to the slaughterhouse.
PETA says it's demonstrating the game today at the University of California-Berkeley, and tomorrow, at Pasadena City College, with the idea that, by being a chicken for a couple minutes, you'll want to stop eating them.
I'm not sure if that's going to be the case or not, but it's an interesting change of venue for the group, which has spent years filming and showing the horrors that happen at factory farms around the country. I, Chicken isn't nearly as graphic as any of those videos, but perhaps the thinking is that if you get to experience getting slaughtered, you'll feel a bit more for the animals.
In the slaughterhouse. Screengrab: PETA
It's, as far as I can tell, the first time PETA has tried virtual reality, though they did develop a virtual frog dissection game a couple years ago for high schoolers.
Also of note: Earlier this year, an assistant professor at Iowa State University invented "Second Livestock," a free-range reality world for chickens themselves. The idea there is to convince chickens that they're living in a lovely pasture rather than in a factory farm cage, by strapping virtual reality goggles over their eyes.
Earlier this year, someone suggested creating a virtual free-range reality for chickens. Image: Austin Stewart
What we have here is the polar opposite of that: By changing human behavior, PETA hopes it can reduce the number of people eating chickens and therefore, reduce the number of chickens living in factory farms. It's a nice thought, but if I were you, I'd invest in lab-grown meat instead.