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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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0 Comments
  • Jelu

    This is literally the stupidest, most blindly self-righteous load of nonsense I’ve ever had the misfortune to read.
    What the actual fuck are you taking about Ben Frost?
    Simon Amstell is a vegan himself and has made this film to promote veganism. Yes it’s going to be funny, because guess what, he’s a fucking comedian! It’s been proven that behaving like a preachy, self righteous dickhead only makes people switch off, rather than empowering them to change anyway, so comedy is exactly the way to go with this one.
    Pick your battles Ben Frost. This is just about the most exciting thing that’s happened for veganism in pop culture for years and I can guarantee, even without having seen it yet, that this will go towards making. more people consider veganism than your misdirected rantings ever will.

    • Joanna Farr

      I couldn’t agree with you more Jelu!! Thank you for expressing so beautifully the rage I felt reading this drivel.

    • Paulr

      You haven’t seen it.

      • Keith Cameron

        I have. It’s amazing. This article is absolute trash.

  • cosmicblueprint

    It might appear more credible to offer a critique of the show *after* it broadcasts this Sunday, perhaps?

    • Daniel

      Exactly!

  • Clementine Sykes

    The film is satirical, and it’s clear aim is to promote veganism through comedy. It’s another, new way of reaching audiences, making a change from shock tactics and lecturing. My Mother has seen all the documentaries (Cowspiracy, What the Health, Forks Over Knives etc.) and yet this was the one that made her pledge to go vegan. Amstell effectively makes our society as it currently is look hideous, in a light and mainstream manner.

  • Bill_Froog

    What a muddle-headed, self righteous critique this is. Mere clickbait and unworthy of the time spent reading. As a long term activist, 3rd gen. veggie (vegan for nearly 40yrs) who was showing ‘The Animals Film’ to audiences in the 70s – I found ‘Carnage’ to be an excellent way of creating awareness and opening a dialogue with those firmly mired in the established denialism of today. I believe that the ability to laugh at oneself is central to evolving an inclusive society that honours all. Reactionary and contorted nit-picking as displayed in this piece, progresses us not one whit IMO. Grow up and get pragmatic for goodness sake – you think diatribe like this progresses the arguments?

  • Nick Mott

    This article is the most tight-assed piece of writing I’ve read in some time. Get over yourself, Jeez….. I thought the film was spot-on and works as a brilliant piece of vegan advocacy. The last thing the animals need is stupid, negative nonsense like this that completely misses the point. I mean, something mainstream comes along to champion veganism and that serves to entice all manner of people, and you dis it? I mean, come on!

  • Donna Fay James

    Oh dear… I cannot actually believe that, as a journalist, you completely missed the irony!… Carnists poke fun at vegans all the time and all Amstell has done is take that fun, and turn it around in a comedic fashion, that will make the film appeal to a wider audience… Did you seriously miss this? I mean… the whole point of the film?… Do yourself a favour and delete this review… actually watch the film… and write a review based on the how clever it was… if you still miss the point… then you’re in the wrong job.

    • Daniel

      I suspect that Ben Frost doesn’t have much of a sense of humour.

      I’d be grateful if he could provide us with the evidence that telling people that they have a moral obligation to go vegan actually turns people into vegans.

      It’s a common theme of this writer’s tediously repetitive articles to disparage anyone who decides to go vegan because of kindness, compassion and empathy for non-human animals. It seems that unless your reasons for becoming vegan are based on the writings of Gary Francione then you’re not a real vegan.

      And as other commenters have pointed out, it’s probably best to watch the thing before publishing a review about it.

  • Daniel Stoker

    I decided to visit this blog today because I suspected that Ben Frost would have something disparaging to say about “Carnage”, and I was proved right. All he seems to do is attack other people on Ecorazzi. It’s the reason why I don’t stop by here more often.

  • lel

    even as a vegan this article makes me want to eat the writer and his pets

  • Joel Instone

    Are you insane?
    No, wait, you are CLEARLY trolling. Hard.
    No one could be this stupid (well, they could, and are, but not someone this literate).

    I am furiously passionate vegan, who believes that it is the single most important meta-issue of our time, and I think this film is the best thing I have ever seen for ‘the cause’. It kicks Cowspiracy into touch. In terms of advocacy, I cannot imagine anything more effective.

    The fact that you call [“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.”] ‘sheer stupidity’, rather than ‘obvious necessity’, is nearly enough to prove your troll status beyond all reasonable doubt.
    But if it weren’t, the fact that you talk about the fictional pro-meat Youtubers segments as making veganism look bad, when this character is portrayed as pretty much as hateful and unpleasant as it’s possible to be (it shows him snapping and preparing to burn his own dog alive for fucks sake!)… you know what you’re doing.

    So I guess you’re either ultimately pushing a covert carnist agenda, or you’re a mega-troll for money, or, maybe, you really are THIS obtuse?!? Nah, canne be.

    “if you are a person who currently eats animals and you think vegans are ridiculous, then this is the film for you”
    …yes because it should CHANGE YOUR FUCKING MIND!

    But you’re troll, so I’ll stop this comment now.

  • JCHSN

    Horrendously dreadful article that does veganism a lot of harm.
    As a vegan I just watched ‘Carnage’ and it was genius.
    Don’t undo the good work contributed by Simon with gross misreadings of his work.
    Here’s to more people becoming vegans in the future!

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