Since watching Simon Amstell's new film Carnage a few weeks ago I have been meaning to write a review of my thoughts on it ever since but before I did I wanted to watch it again, just in order to take it all in, because it's clever. In fact, it's really clever.
The majority of the films I have watched in the past regarding Veganism have more often than not bought tears to my eyes and made me feel completely hopeless. They've been extremely powerful in their message but they've often left me wondering what meat eater in their right minds would sit down to watch out of choice.
Earthlings for example is the film that most people will say is what made them go vegan. After watching it it haunted me for days and every time I closed my eyes certain clips would flash up in my mind to remind me of the horrific torture and abuse animals on this planet have to endure. It's the film that pushed me into making the leap into Veganism and it also made my husband give up dairy milk (which is something I never thought would happen). It's not a film I could sit through more than once which makes it really difficult to promote to my non vegan friends and family. "Here watch this film, it will make you cry and feel sick and you'll want to change everything about your life" - it hardly has them rushing over for a movie night.
I didn't really realise it before now but i've been waiting for a film like Carnage to be made for some time. It's a film, or 'mockumentary' I should say, that sensitively portrays the reasons why many of us choose to go vegan (*without too much blood and gore), but it's also a film that will make you laugh and more hopeful for change. I can't really remember a time when anything else made me feel so hopeful for the future of animals lives.
Wind the clock forward and we find ourselves in the year 2067 where Carnage gives us a fascinating insight into what a vegan future would look like where (nearly) everyone is a vegan. It lightly pokes fun at the 'Carnists', without actually causing anyone too much offence (I think?), and importantly, it pokes fun at us vegans too. There's always such a seriousness associated with being vegan which I personally really dislike. When did caring about animals mean not having a sense of humour or taking life too seriously?
Within the film we are shown the new generation of the human race who are filled with compassion and view animals as people. Not much has changed there apart from their shock of times gone by and how their parents/grandparents once lived on a predominantly animal based diet (that would be the world we live in today). The older generation who remember the years when meat eating was commonplace, the former Carnists, attend support groups to help them to get over the shame they feel associated with once eating meat and dairy. A bit like an AA meeting but for meat eaters.
Despite the films lighthearted tone words like 'slave trade' and 'genocide' are gently thrown in to effectively describe the horror of the animal agriculture industry. They are words which we typically associate with people, not animals, but for the vegans watching who view all living beings as equal, these words are a very accurate description of what's going on behind the walls of slaughter houses and farms.
Real clips of footage are intertwined with acted scenes and it does at times feel difficult to know what is fantasy and what is reality. Scenes featuring some well known celebrity chefs and their ideals around eating meat make me feel uncomfortable at the thought of once buying into their brand. It's like we have all been brainwashed into believing that eating meat is not only ok, but also good for us. Nigella Lawson crushing a chicken corpse between her hands is like a scene from a horror film and for a moment I feel a sadness that this is the world I live in today and not the future of 2067 where I'd rather be.
In a moment of genius by Amstell, 'Meat Free Monday' is compared to being as absurd and meaningless as an 'Ethnic Cleansing Free Tuesday'. A day of the week where meat eaters can dip a toe into the life of being vegetarian, but then spend the other six days of the week feeling less guilty about their carnivorous ways. I've long felt that perhaps an 'Enjoy Meat Sunday', on one day of the week, would be far more beneficial for animals lives, the environment and of course the health of those consuming it. But instead we must encourage and applaud the actions of those who partake in a bean chilli on Mondays.
Carnage cleverly highlights the lack of association most people have between the meat on their plate and the actual living, breathing, thinking, feeling animal it once was. How that animal went from being alive to dead and turned into a presentable package, that looks so far removed from what it once was, is an element of the process that most people like to turn a blind eye to. There appears to be a total disconnect between the animals and the characters people love (Peppa Pig, Babe, Piglet) and what it is they are actually eating.
This reminds me of a tweet I saw recently when someone was complaining after finding blood in their chicken nugget. The person was furious that this ruined their meal but why I wonder? Surely they were aware that what they were eating was the insides of an animal that had all kinds of blood, bones and organs around it. Was it they didn't want to be reminded of where their food came from? If the idea of your food bleeding doesn't sit well with you then maybe it's time to stop eating meat? I have more respect for anyone who enjoys their steak rare or kills their own meat because at least they are not in complete denial.
I realise at times I do sound and come across like the 'preachy vegan' I never wanted to become and that is as annoying to me as it is other people. This film successfully manages to convey everything I would like to say but without being preachy and sounding elitist. It hits all the right notes in all of the right places, with a few laughs in between.
A good (Carnist) friend of mine messaged me this week to ask for my plant based milk recommendations as watching Carnage made her feel 'a bit sick' about milk. And before you jump to any conclusions I didn't even tell her to watch this film. In all my time being vegan, roughly two years, this is the first time any friend has expressed a desire to make a change like this. We can only begin to imagine the impact Carnage would have if the BBC decide to air this film on prime time TV. Maybe the utopian compassionate future that looked so appealing would stand much more of a chance of becoming a reality.
Anyway, i'm off to have a cracker...