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Simon Amstell Causing ‘Carnage’ For Animals With His New “Mockumentary”

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Simon…you’re clearly so in tune with reality. Non-veganism is responsible for unjustly slaughtering over 56 billion and a trillion aquatic animals every year. What those animals clearly need right now is yet another film making light of veganism and poking fun at vegans. The continued denigration of veganism as anything but a moral imperative is very much on your hands. Not that you’re alone – there are many who seem to enjoy getting laughs (or money) at the expense of animals.

I wrote a short article about Amstell’s film, Carnage, when it was announced during the tail end of 2016. I predicted then that it would be a clusterfuck for animals, and low and behold, that’s exactly how it seems to have panned out.

Amstell was recently interviewed by VICE and the article talks in some depth about the plot. In his fictional 2067, it seems that “after animal products have been outlawed,” men instead get their fix by “meeting women in dark alleyways to pay for breastmilk.” Terrific vegan advocacy, Simon. Just terrific. I mean, what better way to highlight the importance of respecting fundamental rights than by perpetuating the commodification of human women in selling their bodies. I don’t know what’s more disturbing – the fact that this is supposed to be funny or that this is what counts as progressive vegan film making in 2017.

But it gets worse. Much worse.

For example, the movie follows some documentary makers who “aim to break the taboo of talking about a time when eating animals was normal, while also showing compassion for the complicit masses.” Aside from this being absolutely useless as an advocacy device in that present day viewers have not been educated as to why we are obligated to be vegan in the first place, the idea of “showing compassion to the complicit masses” implies that there is some greater power at fault for our present day society’s non-veganism. It implies the the onus and responsibility to be vegan doesn’t rest on individuals. Rather, it suggests that there is some kind of invisible, mind controlling conglomerate of evil, enabling us to act in immoral ways.

This sort of nonsense is reminiscent of Melanie Joy’s concept of carnism, whereby we are told that there is some invisible system at play enabling us to rationalise our morally inconsistent behaviour. That same false assumption seems to be an accepted premise in Amstell’s film. The reality is that there is nothing invisible about animal exploitation and therefore no reason to feel “compassion for the complicit masses,” at least not in the sense that they are somehow not in control of their actions. Our animal use is a product of a welfarist society that assumes from the outset that animals have lesser moral value than humans. People are very much aware of their animal exploitation, they simply don’t see it as a moral problem because of their speciesism. As per the conventional welfarist position, people believe that there is nothing wrong with killing and using animals for their unnecessary purposes so long as they are treated “humanely.” That false judgement of animal value is not something that people are duped into believing or something that we should feel “compassion” towards. Indeed, we would deem it preposterous to feel that way were we talking about the exploitation of humans. It simply means that people need to be educated to recognise the implications of animal moral value – that we have no right to use them as our resources and assume them to be our property.

Some of Amstell’s motives for the film are so cringeworthy that you do begin to wonder whether he’s serious about social justice or just using a social justice issue as a source of comedy. He’s definitely doing the latter, but up until this particular comment in VICE you may have been forgiven for believing it to be out of sheer stupidity: “If at any point Carnage became on paper preachy or annoying, we made sure something really funny was really near to that bit so people would be laughing rather than feeling judged.”

It seems that Amstell is torn between respecting fundamental animal rights and maintaining a healthy base of supporters. What he doesn’t seem to realise is that there is a difference between judging an individual and judging someones actions. It is never okay to do the former, but everyone – vegan or non – does the latter. Indeed, it’s the only way social justice causes have ever prevailed. Some people wrongly judge the value of animals to be lesser than humans for the purpose of being used as commodities, and others judge the value of animals, as sentient beings, to be equal to any other sentient being in not being treated as a thing. We are all judgemental. It just seems to be the case that Amstell is more concerned about getting a few laughs and not alienating his audience as opposed to doing right by the moral value of animals. I wonder whether he would consider it appropriate to flank an important message in a “mockumentary” about racism with “something really funny” in order to appease racists. Heck, I wonder whether he would consider it appropriate to make a “mockumentary” about racism in the first instance. It certainly isn’t justifiable in either the human or animal context.

This all comes as no surprise when you consider Amstell’s own motives for being vegan. He maintains that watching Earthlings “helped upset [him] into veganism.” Something is terribly wrong when one must be “upset” into respecting another’s rights. There are some people who will not be upset by Earthlings at all. Does that mean that violations of fundamental animal rights do not exist when someone who isn’t “upset” continues to engage in animal use? Of course not. That’s because being “upset” has nothing to do with whether or not it’s okay to treat another sentient being as a resource. Indeed, Amstell’s proclamation that he needed to be “upset” is indicative of a false assumption that it’s merely the treatment of animals that presents us with a moral problem, and not their use. Even if he doesn’t actually believe that, it’s certainly the message he is promoting in the public eye.

Not only that, he also claims that it is a “compassionate” film – to humans. So let’s get this straight, Amstell makes a movie essentially doing nothing but mocking veganism, and in the process makes it “compassionate” towards humans in their exploitation of animals. Terrific. Just terrific. 

Carnage is explicit in its mockery of vegans. For example, Amstell thought it was “very funny” to see how people in the 70’s tried to convince people to go vegan and therefore decided that he “needed to take the piss out of vegans more than anything for this to work.” He explicitly states that, “if you are a person who currently eats animals and you think vegans are ridiculous, then this is the film for you.” If that isn’t a big stamp of approval on the continuation of animal use, I don’t know what is. The levels of Amstell’s speciesism here are rather mind boggling. Can you imagine anyone saying such a thing in the human context? It would read something like this: If you are a person who currently engages in misogyny, racism, or homophobia, and you think those who respect human rights are ridiculous, then this is the film for you.

It is clear that the moral value of animals is not a priority here for Amstell. There’s even a point in the film where vegans are mocked in a restuarant by a non-vegan who, upon entering a cafe says something like, “so depressing, the first thing I see is a lentil.” This character continues the mockery by asking “does this make you interesting?” What’s the implication here, that non-veganism is interesting? That the unjust enslavement of animals isn’t depressing? Amstell actually wrote and approved this crap for a film about veganism.

VICE seemed confused as to why the BBC let this film go ahead. It turns out that the BBC actually invited Amstell to do it – and the reasons couldn’t be clearer. This “mockumentary” is nothing short of an insult to the animals depending on us and the role veganism necessarily plays in respecting their moral value. The mainstream media just loves to mock veganism – it is in their interests to do so.

Amstell joins the ranks of those laughing all the way to the bank at the expense of animals.

Photo from VICE

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