If you found yourself crying while watching Guardians of the Galaxy (GOTG) Vol. 3, know you aren’t alone. When the latest installment of the series hit theaters in May 2023, fans took to the internet to discuss what a tearjerker it was—and how it got them thinking about going vegan.
Haven’t watched the movie yet? Be warned, this article contains spoilers!
ANIMALS IN GOTG 3
There’s no denying that animals have played pretty significant roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). From Ant-Man’s trusty Ant friend Ant-Thony to Captain Marvel’s adorable “flerken” named Goose (played by several Cat talents), the MCU is littered with animals who make their incredible, superhero-filled storylines more relatable and authentic to audiences worldwide.
Of all the MCU’s films, however, GOTG 3 is the only one that puts a spotlight on animal welfare. The movie puts the issue of vivisection at front and center, starting with a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy team: Rocket.
Though Rocket, a genetically engineered Raccoon, is one of the series’ main characters, his origin story was kept a mystery until the third film.
In a 2013 interview with the movie enthusiast website HeyUGuys ahead of the first film, GOTG director and writer James Gunn said, “Rocket Racoon has been slightly different over the years, in the comic books, and within my scripts he is a very, very specific guy.”
Throughout the series, Rocket insists on not being called a “Raccoon.” In GOTG 3, we learn that he was once known not by his species or his name, but by the tag “89P13.” He was one of many test subjects experimented on by the High Evolutionary in the hope of creating a perfect society.
After his other nonhuman animal friends are killed, Rocket escapes but with a target on his back because of his superior intelligence. The High Evolutionary tries to recreate his success with Rocket until his demise, but fails.
DETERMINED TO ESCAPE
In reality, Raccoons do have a reputation similar to Rocket’s — especially in the lab.
According to a 2010 LiveScience article by Jeremy Hsu, scientists used to favor Raccoons over other animals for experimentation in the 20th century due to their high intelligence and curious behavior.
However, he writes, “Researchers complained about raccoons trying to gnaw through their cage bars and occasionally escaping to hide out in the lab ventilation systems.”
By the 1950s, scientists had moved on to more docile test subjects: Rats.
LYLLA, THE OTTER
When Rocket is first chosen to be experimented on as a baby, he’s kept in cages with other test subjects such as Lylla. While they show him kindness and treat each other like family, they try to withstand the High Evolutionary’s experiments because they believe he intends to bring them with him to the new world.
It’s clear from the beginning that they’ve been with the High Evolutionary much longer than Rocket, as evidenced by their use of mechanical limbs and other modified body parts.
IN OTTER NEWS
Discussions on Otter welfare today revolve around their being used as attractions at zoos.
According to a 2021 article by Kitty Block, the president of the Humane Society of the United States, Otters used in public encounters and for public handling “are prematurely taken from their mothers and subjected to extreme stress by being forced to routinely interact with people.”
In videos of zoo Otters online, they’re often seen crying and exhibiting other forms of distress.
TEEFS, THE WALRUS
Teefs is a sweetheart of a Walrus with wheels to get him around. He named himself after his own “teeth”: his giant tusks.
He was part of Rocket’s batch while under the High Evolutionary, but was killed before he could even escape from his cage.
Teefs, not unlike any of the other animals in the film, is depicted as a harmless being who only wanted to be free.
One particular Walrus that made the news this past year is Freya, a 1300-pound female who was euthanized by the government of Norway in August 2022.
Freya spent only a few weeks on her own in Norway before she became too popular among locals and regarded as a public safety concern.
A week after Freya’s death, the animal welfare non-profit organization World Animal Protection wrote, “If people had heeded the warnings, and given Freya the appropriate space, she may still have been alive today.”
In April 2023, artist Astri Tonoian unveiled a statue of Freya called “For Our Sins” to serve as a symbol of how humans treat nature.
FLOOR, THE RABBIT
Floor is a female white Rabbit who is also killed during Rocket’s escape from the High Evolutionary. A quiet member of Batch 89, Floor named herself after the floor she was lying on while dreaming of the future with her friends Rocket, Lylla, and Teefs.
Of all of them, Floor has perhaps the most frightening look as a result of experimentation: spider-like mechanical legs and a metal, mask-like muzzle.
Rabbits are still a popular test animal today because of their practicality: They’re easy to control.
The National Anti-Vivisection Society of the United States reported that in 2019, over 140,000 Rabbits were legally used in animal testing, teaching, experimentation, and research, including studies on the toxicity of drugs, safety of cosmetics, and development of human diseases.
COSMO, THE DOG
Cosmo the space-Dog was male in the Marvel comics but was made female for the MCU. Her telekinetic powers received from cosmic rays help save all the animals tortured by the High Evolutionary, cementing her role as a “good Dog” among the GOTG.
BASED ON A TRUE CANINE
Cosmo is female in GOTG 3 in honor of Laika, a real Soviet space-Dog who died in orbit in 1957.
A 2017 article by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) describes Laika as having been “cooked to death” on Sputnik 2 just hours after takeoff. Her spacecraft overheated while she was inside, clueless and alone.
She was a Moscow stray who was subjected to various experiments such as pressure chambers to “train” her for her short journey, which she was never expected to live through.
The American Anti-Vivisection Society states that tens of thousands of Dogs are still used in experiments in the US every year.
EMPATHY AND GOTG 3
There are countless animals in GOTG 3. Not all of them may be based on existing animals, but that doesn’t mean you can’t empathize with them.
The film is rife with human and nonhuman animal parallels as well as similarities between MCU and reality; if anything, it’s a refreshing take on how humans treat animals today.
GOTG 3 WINS VEGAN AWARD
In May 2023, PETA awarded Gunn with the “Not a Number” Award. The animal rights organization called GOTG 3
an “animal rights masterpiece” for showcasing Rocket as a survivor of animal experimentation.
PETA’s press release about the award included a quote from their senior vice president, Lisa Lange, who said, “Through Rocket, James Gunn has put a face, a name, and a personality on the millions of vulnerable animals being cycled through laboratories as we speak.”