Is a family eating their farmyard pet really the most ‘transgressive’ idea on TV?

Claims that Meat the Family is more shocking than a reality show offering the chance to win cosmetic surgery shows our warped priorities

Participants in Meat the Family will adopt a farm animal that they must cook unless they go vegetarian. Photograph: iStock

Participants in Meat the Family will adopt a farm animal that they must cook unless they go vegetarian. Photograph: iStock

 

It has been called “one of the most shocking ultimatums delivered on television”: you have been given a lamb, pig, chicken or calf to treat “like a member of the family” for three weeks. Could you bring yourself to kill it, cook it and eat it?

Meat the Family, Channel 4’s upcoming reality show challenges audiences to confront how their sausages get made through the personal journey of a family of meat-eaters and their new (potentially fleeting) farmyard friend. The “social experiment” was hailed by analysts as the “most transgressive” concept of the year at the MIPCOM entertainment market in Cannes.

A new British reality TV show called Meat the Family will a family of unrepentant carnivores have to let an animal they have adopted and grown to love go for slaughter if they refuse to stop eating meat – they will be asked to cook and eat it.

With experts saying that we have to eat less meat to stave off climate change, the Channel 4 show challenges four heavy meat-eating families to take home and look after the “animal which ends up most often on their plates”.

Perhaps those analysts forgot about The Surjury, also due from C4 in which the host, Caroline Flack, promises to make participants’ “surgical dreams come true” with free cosmetic procedures. That the idea of eating an animal with which we have a relationship is somehow more ethically taxing than optional surgery to permanently alter your appearance tells you how entrenched our attitudes about meat are – and maybe how warped our priorities are too.

Daniela Neumann, head of Meat the Family’s makers, Spun Gold, defends the show as tackling “really timely themes of ethical eating” and our culture’s hypocritical sorting of animals into those we consume and those we care about. For many people, it is only maintaining some ignorance of the industrial meat complex – the cruelty, waste and suffering inherent to its operating at the scale it does – that enables us to continue to participate in it.

Yet there is increasing awareness that the cost is not just limited to animal suffering. Last year, researchers at the University of Oxford found that meat and diary production is responsible for 60 per cent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, and takes up 83 per cent of farmland. For our individual health, too, we know that we could afford to cut down. A 2015 report by the Chatham House thinktank found that global consumption was already at unhealthy levels and is set to rise by more than 75 per cent by 2050.

If we were to only eat meat of animals we had killed ourselves, would we eat less of it? Almost certainly. Would this be good, for us and the planet? Definitely. Can the same net good be said of free cosmetic procedures from Caroline Flack? Tune in to find out. – Guardian

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