Anyone who grew up in the 1990s (or any time after that, basically) is familiar with the basic, addictive premise of the Pokémon video games: the world is full of fantastical creatures that “trainers” can collect and make fight each other—kind of like animals, but more easily tamed. But that world, designed for tweens and teenagers, might be far creepier than it appears.
Modern Farmer published an article that analyzes the mysterious food politics of the world of Pokémon and comes to a conclusion: “Simply put, it is a fact that people eat Pokémon.” Collating creatures from the games and comments from the world’s non-player characters who chat up the protagonist, it becomes clear that Pokémon produce the basis of the world’s existence. Miltanks, a cow-like Pokémon, produce milk, while the tail of the Slowpoke, an exceedingly dumb Pokémon, is a delicacy. The poison of the serpentine Arbok makes a delicious cheese.
So how does this change our view of the games? In battle, Pokémon don’t really die, they just faint and have to be brought back to life. But if Pokemon are actually raised like chickens, for food byproducts and meat, then presumably they are fully capable of death. It’s a gruesome food-chain that sees trainers eating the very pals they depend on in battle.
Real animals have popped up in the Poké-universe in early art and comic books, but they gradually disappear in later games. When a character eats a hamburger, one has to assume it’s more of a Poke-burger. Thankfully, no reference to eating Pikachu has yet been made—you don’t have to eat ’em all.