If the title of this article caused you to gawk, well then good, because that would be a pretty normal response. But do let me take a moment to de-sensationalise this. Families will not be forced to eat their pet dog Max, or Tiddles their cat. This isn’t some kind of Black Mirror adaptation with an even bigger twist in store for the last 5 minutes of each 45-minute episode.
On a side note, watch Black Mirror. It’s a must!
Now to re-sensationalise it, that is exactly what this show is after: sensationalism. Get people up in arms, stir up bitter controversy and don’t forget to tune in to be close to the horror!
The premise of the show is simple and based on an argument that has been going around for years. ‘You wouldn’t eat your dog, so why would you eat a cow, or a baby lamb?’
The families who take part will be self-confessed meat loving families. No ‘almost vegetarians’ for this TV show. Instead, we should be meeting families that down meat with every meal. And these families, whose food bills must be enormous, will be inviting farm animals into their homes for three weeks.
This gives me cause for concern for a few reasons. Firstly, most farm animals are not house trained. How do you tell a lamb to only go to the toilet outside? And also, are the cows going to be in the house with them? Will there be cattle at the breakfast table? Great behemoths filling up the back garden? Pigs getting into everything, tramping mud through the house?
In such circumstances I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one member of the family was sufficiently frustrated by the animal presence to happily send a consignment to the slaughterhouse at the end of the three weeks.
And that is how each episode will end: the family will be given the chance to either send the animal to a slaughterhouse at the end of the three weeks or to a sanctuary. Which feels like a pretty easy decision, considering it will be broadcast on national television. Channel 4 has commissioned the show, and it is reported to be in talks for international broadcast rights. And who really wants to be seen making the decision to send a cute little lamb to a slaughterhouse in front of all those viewers? Which is probably the most terrifying part of this TV show.
What happens if one family does decide to send the animal to a slaughterhouse? (Which once again, would be a very strange decision to make, as the show is not asking you to commit to a life of veganism.) But the judgement that would rain down on this family would be horrific. Let’s face it, we have all seen how nasty the internet can get.
In fact, I think we have just found the twist to our Black Mirror-style episode. The show isn’t just an opportunity to talk about meat consumption or its impact on the environment, educating both its participants and its viewership. It’s entertainment and reality TV, pure and simple. This, we all know, is the worst kind of television as it thrives off encouraging its audience to judge and criticise those on the screen.
Unless it’s the Great British Bake Off, a show which is pure goodness and rainbows.
Nevertheless, Nicola Brown, Chanel 4’s Specialist and Factual Commissioning editor, is enthusiastic and optimistic about ‘Meat the Family.’ And sees it in a good light. In the Channel 4 news release she said, “From environmental activism to vegan sausage rolls the debate around eating meat and animal welfare is more prominent than ever before. Confronting the reality of an animal’s journey from field to plate, Meat the Family will be a life changing and emotional experiment for all involved.”
Meanwhile, Director at Spun Gold (the company who created the show) Daniela Neumann has called the show heart-warming as well as factual.
The show will be airing in the new year, and it will probably have farmers who both care for animals and send them to slaughterhouses shaking their heads and making jokes about ‘city folk.’