Carnage – BBC (2017)

So, I am a little late in viewing this film but a few weeks back I watched “Simon Amstell’s Carnage: Swallowing The Past” after being recommended it by my sister. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s a mockumentary about a completely vegan future in the UK. It’s set in the year 2067, and the UK is a vegan nation – animals are classed as non-human people and have the same rights as humans. Now, before you switch off from reading this post – it’s a comedy! It’s not preachy, it’s not militant but it does make you think about the food choices that you make on a daily basis. Which I hope we can all agree is a good thing to do anyway.

I am not a vegan. So, I am not about to tell you all that you should be – I am many things, but a hypocrite is not one of them! However, I do think that you should give this film a watch. It’s an important film for what is the fast-growing food movement of our generation and a big plus is that it is actually really funny.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s a mockumentary about a completely vegan future in the UK. It’s set in the year 2067, and the UK is a vegan nation – animals are classed as non-human people and have the same rights as humans.

This post was originally written by Rebecca Hansell for Small World, Big Cause in 2017, but is bought to you fresh and edited for The Curious Environmentalist in October 2021.

Carnage: Swallowing The Past (BBC, 2017)

I did at points laugh out loud at sections – such as when animals are given the voice of Joanna Lumley. Hilarious.

Plus, the clever use of real-life events, used as archive footage for the film – such as that infamous moment of Ed Miliband attempting to eat a bacon sandwich. It is a very clever film, which I actually think has done a lot to haul veganism out of the niche and into the mainstream.

Despite being set in what some would deem an extreme version of the future, I think that the concept is still a believable one. Perhaps not to the extent that it is portrayed in the film but I do think that society will start leaning towards a more vegan way of thinking – perhaps not 24/7 but with initiatives such as “Meat Free Mondays” and “Veganuary” I do believe that vegan cooking is going to become more mainstream in the years ahead.

What this film does well is that it argues the case of veganism from many different sides. It acknowledges that not everyone is an animal lover – animal rights and treatment is not going to be enough for some people to seriously consider their food choices, but it makes you think – if not for the animals, then for the environment and for our own personal health. The more we learn about the dairy and meat industries, and the impact they are having on the world and creatures around us, the less and less we will be able to sit around and do nothing. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary – I do think that we are a caring and intelligent nation. However, I do think that we are ignorant, and we are unwilling to learn about the terrible things that happen every day – as long as they aren’t happening in our living room. I believe that if we were shown what really goes on, that we would have something to say and that most people would do something.

The film does bring about interesting questions about our lifestyle and how we are influenced as a society. What would it take for the UK to have a mass shift to veganism? Carnage touches on the rise of the first vegan celebrity chef – which I think is something that is on the horizon. With veganism apparently set to be the biggest food movement of 2018, we are a generation that is demanding change and demanding alternatives. Most people are put off of vegan food because they think that it won’t be delicious or you won’t be getting the nutrition that you need to be healthy – and anyone who has done a vegan diet (I went vegan for lent this year) knows that those assumptions are SO WRONG. I ate some of the most delicious meals when I was vegan because it actually makes you think about what you are making and consider your flavours. All it would take would be someone high profile – like Jamie Oliver or Nigella – to do a vegan series and show people what you can make from vegan produce to change a lot of people’s minds.

I’m not saying that we could change the world overnight but even if we just got people trying new things, then that would be something right?

The fact that this mockumentary is on BBC iPlayer is a huge thing! We have got to a point where a film about veganism isn’t doomed to the niche areas of the internet but is out there in the mainstream for everyone to access. Having it on BBC means that someone might stumble across it rather than have to actively seek out the information, and the fact that it was made by someone who is already popular with our generation – Simon Amstell – speaks volumes about how celebrities should be using their voices and status in this day and age… however that is a whole other discussion for another time. Plus, the fact that it’s on BBC iPlayer means that for once it’s not just for my generation – it can be for everyone, everyone who sits down to watch TV in the evening has the ability to watch this film, which is amazing.

The main thing that I took from the film was the different reasons for being a vegan or adopting more vegan habits. Yes, animals are important and the treatment of them in the dairy/meat industry is hugely upsetting. However, as I said previously, we have to face it that some people aren’t animal people and that is not enough to bring them on board the vegan wagon. This is when we need to focus on the impacts that eating such a heavily meat-based diet has on the environment and our health – this is possibly a much stronger tool to get a larger demographic of people on board.

Here are some facts that, to be honest, I was unaware of before I started looking into veganism:

  • The high intensity of our livestock farming is contributing to a huge 51% of the total greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change.
  • A single cow on a dairy farm drinks up to 50 gallons of water a day meaning it takes 683 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of milk. It takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef – every person who goes vegan is saving approx. 219,000 gallons of water a year.
  • There is nowhere to process the waste that all of our farmed animals produce – the runoff from factory farm and livestock is one of the leading causes of the high levels of pollutants in our rivers and lakes. Which not only harms the ecosystems but also puts human health at risk through the harmful bacteria and viruses that are carried by this runoff – and with 270 million dairy cows alone worldwide – that is a lot of run off!
  • It takes up 20 times more land for agriculture to feed someone a meat-based diet as opposed to a plant based one.
  • Clearing land for agriculture is one of the leading contributing factors of deforestation. More than 90% of the land cleared in the Amazon rainforest since 1970 us used for livestock or to grow crops for livestock feed.
  • Livestock feed largely includes soybeans – which are used in most vegan alternatives, which we could be using instead of feeding them to animals.
  • Commercial fishing destroys coral reefs and kills dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and other marine life classed as “bycatch”. Coastal fish farms also pollute the oceans with animal waste, antibiotics, parasites and invasive species into the delicate ocean ecosystems. It takes 3 pounds of fish for feed for every pound of farmed salmon produced.

These facts were sourced from the PETA and WWF websites.

And then we have the health benefits of a vegan lifestyle:

  • All those veggies mean a higher nutrient intake for someone with a balanced vegan diet.
  • You are instantly cutting the calories you put into your body which means good news for your waistline and also your long-term health.
  • It can lower blood-sugar levels and help improve kidney function which is great news for diabetics – plus it could help you to not develop type 2 diabetes in the future.
  • Studies suggest that by avoiding processed meats and eating more fruit, vegetables and soy – you can reduce your risk of dying from certain cancers by up to 15%.
  • Observational studies also suggest that through having a higher intake of fruit and vegetables – and therefore fibre – you can reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure by a whopping 75% and lower your risk of dying from heart disease by 42%.
  • If you suffer with arthritis, then you can ease your day-to-day pain through a vegan diet.

So, there are so many other reasons to consider vegan alternatives if animals aren’t your thing.

Carnage is a good film for making you take a step back and look at our society and what we consider to be normal. A piece of archive footage that stayed with me after watching the film was that of Nigella – who says “I love, respect and appreciate a chicken” before pushing down on it to break the backbone. It’s odd, isn’t it? That we can be a nation of animal lovers and still be able to compartmentalise what it is that we eat on a daily basis? That we drink the liquids that mothers produce for their children without a second thought? That yoghurts are sold through advertisements that make them sexy??? Yoghurts, possibly one of the least sexy foods out there!!

I think what it comes down to is that we are a nation of people who think ignorance is bliss. We have it reasonably easy here in the western world and our food comes nicely packaged from the supermarket and we don’t have the think about where it comes from. We don’t have to consider what impact our choices are having on the wilder world because largely the consequences aren’t happening on our doorstep. But ignorance is not bliss, it’s unacceptable. More and more the consequences are finding their way to us – through increased flooding, rising sea temperatures, frequent natural disasters. Just sit for a moment and think about all the hurricanes and storms and earthquakes that we have lived through this year and then ask yourself if the way we are living life is sustainable?

Now, if we could all do something as simple as “Meat Free Monday” or “Veganuary” or swapping to alternative milks, shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t we all do our little bit to help our planet and help protect this Earth for future generations?

I am. And no, I am probably not going to change the world, but I am doing my bit and if I have managed to get even one person to consider their choices then this article has been worth it. Small change has the potential to make a big difference, but it has to start at home.


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