Love Meat

BY JAMES BEMBRIDGE

‘The world is waking up to an environmental crisis’, a disembodied voice warns with the kind of damming cynicism that only a guttural Scottish accent can truly deliver. The viewer is then assaulted with flashes of bush-fires spliced with frenzied jerky-cam closeups of caged swines. In case this bombardment of the senses has left us in any doubt as to the utter urgency or profoundness of what we are about to see, a nasal-voiced American woman then appears seemingly out of nowhere to proclaim that everything in her body is saying ‘this is wrong’.

The sequence I describe isn’t the intro to a new post-apocalyptic drama, or at least, rather worryingly, its producers didn’t envisage it as such. ‘Meat: a threat to our planet? ’ Is the BBC’s latest attempt to instil a hackneyed (and ironically, recycled) climate change hysteria into the minds of the proletariat. Into the minds of those who are yet to find Greta – peace be upon her carbon-neutral petrol guzzler of a yacht.

The farming industry is in this case the BBC’s battering ram to do it.

Throughout the program, Marine biologist Liz Bonnin travels to several countries to visit what appear to be extreme abattoirs but are curiously never described as such, the assumption being that what we are watching is commonplace. Indeed, there are many attempts to link these foreign lands to British farming, inferring that it is commonplace here, too.

Where better to start this pilgrimage of sanctimonious drivel than the only place a liberal luvvie could possibly hate more than Britain: Texas. The camera goes back and forth between shots of them passing steak bars to the ever-increasing revulsion of Miss Bonnin. ‘Welcome to Texas’ she sneers in a pantomimed Southern drawl. Blue collar eateries offering reasonably priced meat platters, consumed by reactionary savages – and *gulp* not a Pret a Manger in sight, the vulgarity of it all! BBC producers could have only watched on in horror, as whilst she was in Texas, to them the poor woman may as well have been in Cambodia.

Miss Bonin will often turn to the camera with looks of self-righteous indignation, her damning stare penetrating into our wretched carnivorous souls. But it’s not all hellfire-preaching. Occasionally we are treated to some facts and statistics, albeit one-sided ones which favour the show’s narrative.

Statistics from the IPCC are cited which claim that farming produces more greenhouse gasses than the emissions from transport, but the FAO ( Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) have warned that to compare the two is a flawed endeavour. Their argument is that the IPCC’s data is based on life cycle emissions instead of direct emissions. If we look at direct emissions, then livestock only makes up 5% whereas transport makes up 14%. The FAO maintain that – currently – there is no way to measure the life cycle emissions of transport which explains why they view such a comparison as being inherently flawed.

The last destination brings us to Britain where we meet Matthew, a mild and unassuming man adorned in rustic knitwear.  He wastes no time in introducing us to one of his pet hens. Miss Bonnin assures us that what Matthew has to offer is the ’kinder alternative’ to industrial farming.  It’s all very river cottage until he picks up the hen and proceeds to bludgeon her to death with a plank of wood. As we see the poor creature spasming with its feathers littered across what used to be her play area, it is reiterated to us that this is the ‘kinder alternative’.

Seeing how visibly shaken Miss Bonnin is by this, it dawns on me that the producers may not have actually done the adequate research needed on this crank who she is now left in the mercy of. As if that wasn’t enough excitement, we then get to see Dan’s child devour, what was up until a moment ago, his beloved pet. It’s surreal to watch and has the air of the uncanny about it, a constant low-key malevolence. The only way I can best describe it is if Kirsty Allsopp had directed the Texas Chainsaw Massacre dinner scene. I kept wanting to shout run Liz run!

You may be shocked to hear that British farmers took to Twitter to accuse the BBC of bias. These reactionary country bumpkins, what could they possibly know about farming that a marine biologist doesn’t?

Young farmer, Ally Hunter Blair, claimed that it showcased ‘the very worst of world farming systems. None of those systems were in the UK.‘

All this talk of the dangers of cattle excreting methane gas, I don’t know. Watching this program, I don’t think that I’ve ever been subjected to so much methane gas in all my life.