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Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 and Animal Testing

Art imitating life: Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 and Animal Testing 

*Spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3*

Rocket’s tragic backstory exposes the horrors of animal testing 

Rocket has always been one of the most underrated Marvel characters for me. An extremely smart, sarcastic, loving character who cements the bond of family that establishes a rag tag group of misfits as the Guardians of the Galaxy. But before this latest movie we didn’t know much about Rocket’s early life or if he was, indeed, even a raccoon… 

In the third Guardians of the Galaxy instalment, we learn a horrible truth: that Rocket was a raccoon directly manipulated by the experiments of a classic egotistical Marvel villain. All in the pursuit of perfection.  

The film’s compassionate portrayal of animals inspires empathy and understanding 

The script shows real compassion to the lives of the animals in a lab. Alongside our already beloved Rocket, we meet Lylla, Floor, and Teeth and learn about their hopes and dreams – to begin a new life. This is powerfully contrasted with the brutal reality of what happens to the lab’s residents when the experiments end.  

Exploring animal testing in a blockbuster movie is a great way of inspiring empathy, connection and understanding with creatures we normally do not connect with. As humans, we have large biases to particular species – often our own defined ‘higher species’. But just because we do not understand the dance of bees, it does not mean it is less important. Just because we have deemed dogs as ‘good’ and mice as ‘vermin’, it does not make it so. 

Marvel movies can be a powerful tool for raising awareness about important issues 

The Marvel movies are fun-filled action movies built to entertain, and the latest movie does just that. But they also explore some real issues facing the world today. And they do an amazing job of reaching out to mass audiences where often science, politicians, and traditional education fail.  

As a charity driving to replace animals in real world experiments, it is vital for us to engage with these emotive portrayals of animal testing to share the realities and nuance ever present in this complex area. In the movie, our villain’s actions are awful, and the goal is fundamentally flawed and selfish. But in reality, animal use in research and testing can be far from that.  

A better comparison within the Marvel villainy index would be Thanos.  

Though deeply flawed, his aim of saving the universe from overpopulation and environmental disaster could be categorised as noble. Animal methods have been used to develop lifesaving treatments, for example for diabetes. But just because it’s what we have done, doesn’t mean we should continue to. Today, human relevant research offers us better insights into diabetes treatment.  

We know better, we have better, and we can be better 

By focusing on new human-centred methods we can replace animal use in scientific and medical research and testing, so no animals again will be denied Lylla’s simple wish – to see the sky.  

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