Warning: This post contains minor spoilers from the new film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Probably the last thing anyone expected from Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a treatise on animal rights. But according to one commentator writing on the website of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the movie not only has powerful animal liberation themes, but features a “vegan epiphany” experienced by one of the film franchise’s most iconic characters, Chewbacca.
But before we address Chewbacca’s apparent conversion to veganism, let’s talk about the place of creatures in the new Star Wars film overall. In its review of The Last Jedi, Variety discussed animal rights as part of the film’s underlying political agenda. Writer Peter Debruge made a sly connection between what he sees as the movie’s respect of animals while still exploiting their cuteness for commercial uses.
“… the movie’s political agenda, which disapproves of arms trafficking, regardless of which side the gunrunners are serving, and argues for the respect of all creatures (who should not be eaten, abused or raced for sport, but instead collected wherever fine toys are sold).”
Debruge wasn’t the only journalist to note the animal rights messages peppered throughout the latest incarnation of the Star Wars universe. Vulture‘s Jackson McHenry notes that the film’s Fathiers, horse-like creatures raced by an elite wealthy class for sport, are subject to “terrible animal cruelty.” While McHenry is a particular fan of the Caretakers, a group of nunlike creatures that look after the isolated island of Ahch-To, where Luke Skywalker has been hiding out, he makes note of the many other furry species of The Last Jedi, including the fox-like Vulptices.
And then there are the Porgs, and that’s where we get to Chewbacca and his apparent distaste at eating meat.
As Joelle Vann wrote for PETA, Chewbacca is hanging out with the Porgs on Ahch-To. He’s gleefully sitting by a fire, a whole, roasted, chicken-shaped corpse in his hand that he’s moments away from putting in his mouth. But then he sees a small group of Porgs looking at him with adorable sorrow. In essence, their CGI-generated eyes are asking how he could possibly eat one of their kin.
“At that moment, Chewy has a ‘vegan epiphany,’ if you will—after seeing that porgs are individuals with real feelings, he decides not to eat the corpse.”
Of course, Star Wars is still Star Wars, and although there’s plenty of references to the need to treat animals with due reverence and respect — the Vulptices have a crucial role in saving the remaining members of the resistance during the film’s final sequences — it may be difficult to go all the way and say The Last Jedi promotes veganism. There’s an early scene where Luke milks an alien, which may be repulsive to existing vegans, but a mere easter egg to tried-and-true Star Wars fans. As Elite Daily wrote, the scene may be a reference to A New Hope, when a young Luke Skywalker drinks blue milk.
But whether it’s pro-vegan, pro-vegetarian, or just simple kindness to animals, the fact was that Chewbacca opted not to consume the Porg corpse. It just hurt his Wookie heart.