We’re not vegans, they’re carnists

The year is 2067 and Britain is a vegan Utopia. Simon Amstell’s mockumentary Carnage depicts this world with just the right amount of serious social commentary and satire, making for a genuinely worthwhile feature-length film that voicefours anti-vegans (a delicate bunch) would be hard pressed to intelligently criticise. Crucially, the film is targeted at neither vegans nor meat-eaters, is neither propagandaist nor preachy and thus is a complete success. 

Writer and director Amstell is happy to poke fun at the vegan movement itself, evident in the excruciatingly charisma-void Bland family – and the film’s leading vegan thinkers aren’t depicted as angels, either. Troye King Jones, a sort of Malcolm X parody makes his own journey from militance to compassion, before being slaughtered and eaten by a reactionary terrorist representing the Great British Meat League. The black comedy, though in spades, sits alongside deeply unsettling truths as witty digs are juxtaposed with horrific images. It’s not long before a viewer’s chuckle is interrupted by footage of the sanguinary throat-slitting of innocent pigs and cattle being impregnated with semen-clad fists. Yes, that actually happens. Creepy farmers essentially rape cows in order to produce more happy meals. 

Contemporary celebrity chefs such as Fanny Craddock and Jamie Oliver make for confused figures in Carnage, with the latter’s advocation of healthier school meals and free range meats dripping with irony and verging on the absurd. The context in which this is achieved is a credit to Amstell’s writing and directing capabilities. Martin Freeman makes a welcome cameo appearance in a fictional BBC drama, portraying a bemused son unable to comprehend the heartache of his mother, a dementia sufferer who has forgotten the normality of the meat industry and took a chicken dinner at face value. 

King Jones almost breaks the fourth wall when asking “who wants to sit and watch an entire film about veganism?” – a fitting tongue in cheek moment among the many that serve to keep Carnage grounded. The character influences the Utopia of 2067 through ushering in the use of ‘carnist’ to describe meat-eaters and rendering the use of ‘vegan’ obsolete as the fictional world moves closer to animal liberation. 

Carnage will probably be viewed as a starting point for vegans to pursue their cause in a more self-aware manner, a notion put forward in The Independent’s positive review of the film. However, the problem with the ‘preachy vegan’ charicature, which has undoubtedly held the movement back – is that it is largely the creation of carnivore culture, born out of a direct defence mechanism against the fear of being wrong. Such excuses however, mark progress. Carnage has rightfully been met with widespread acclaim as mainstream media outlets concede that the ethical benefits of veganism are at this point irrefutable. 

Carnage is available on BBC iPlayer

Image: BBC