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Within our team, we love to philosophize about life, ethics and good (vegan) food. So for this article, one of our youngest (Slovakian Polly, 1999) and oldest (Dutch Paul, 1964) had a - digital - round table discussion together to reflect on an ethical and sustainable lifestyle through their generation’s lens, all the while discussing the marvellous BBC mockumentary “Carnage: Swallowing the Past” (2017).1
This comedic (yes, really), sci-fi documentary from director Simon Amstell narrates the year 2067: a utopian time when the whole of the UK has turned vegan. While older generations are suffering from the guilt of their carnivorous past, even seeking therapy to cope with their now unthinkable meat-eating behaviours, the young seek to understand why the old did what they did — and how eating animals perhaps wasn’t their (grand)parents’ fault, as they simply knew no better.
Carnage is a great concept to guide this reflection on past and future timelines and get into the groove of how two different generations (Gen X and Z) perceive and anticipate change. Let's dive in!
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Paul (57 years old, plant-based and on his way to veganism since 2019): I could really feel the disgust and shame of the young generation in 2067 with what their (grand)parents used to eat and how they (mis)treated animals (as a source of food). They love their family members and at the same time, cannot relate to their way of life in the past. And understandably so.
Polly (22 years old, vegan since 2015): The movie did a great job at addressing a serious issue through humorous scenes. I loved that. I don't want to give any spoilers, but the several scenes depicting therapy sessions of ex-meat-eaters made me smile.
What Paul mentioned, the guilt and disgust people felt in 2067, is something that stuck with me. I understand that this might become our reality, I just hope we will have enough compassion for ourselves and for our fellow humans in the future so we do not beat ourselves up for our (hopefully to be) past mistakes.
Polly: I think that their predictions for the future, at least to this year, were quite accurate — which was a bit creepy and interesting at the same time. One thing I hope they got right is that one day, we will have a vegan world. I loved that the world in 2067 looks like there has been a shift in our perception of the world, nature and the animals.
The thing I hope they got wrong is the next generation's inability to understand the mistakes we've made (and collectively are still making today).
Paul: That’s pretty hard to say, because it almost solely depends on your personal perspective in life. If you are open to the vegan lifestyle or (partially) already adapted one, you can strongly relate to the scenes: it’s a relief to see that people as a society are truly living the lives we strive for.
They’ve created a truly immersive scenery as a way to reflect on what happens in the years 2021 to 2023 when a transformation unfolds until the point where being a vegan is the new normal and carnists are this ignorant minority. How non-vegans perceive the movie, I do not know, but would love to hear their feedback.
Paul: There’s no escape to reflect on your past consumer habits. Of course, it makes me feel very uneasy to say the least. I’ve made some radical changes in my eating and buying habits in the last few years. That’s not enough, I cannot undo what I’ve done in the past.
To my defence, I am a child of what is often called “Generation X”2: Born in the Sixties, coming of age in the Seventies and starting a career in the Eighties. It was the time of the Cold War, the start of Personal Computers, Games consoles and MTV to name a few.
My generation was engaged in all sorts of developments, politically and socially. As a real ‘Amsterdammer’, I experienced big political demonstrations, houses being squatted and riots in historic areas against capitalist influences. I am sure that, if we had known about all the tragedies in the meat and dairy industry, it would have been on the agenda of my peers and me. Because really: we weren’t ignorant — just not informed.
Polly: To be completely honest, I don't necessarily feel guilty about eating animal products in the past. Don't get me wrong, I do feel remorse, but as Paul says, I was also just uninformed. And as soon as I learned all the facts, I changed my consumption habits completely.
I went vegan at the age of 16 - and well, you can imagine my parents weren't that excited about this decision. But I felt it was the right thing to do. Nobody could change my mind. It was my way of being a socially engaged rebel, I guess.
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Polly: 100%! It is such a relief that there is finally a humorous vegan movie to recommend! Also, for vegans, I'd say. When we are in the mood for a vegan-themed movie night, we don't need to go for yet another documentary revealing horrific truths about the world anymore. With Carnage, we can just genuinely laugh.
Not only does it provide us with the opportunity to have a peek at the future that we are fighting for - but also in general, combining humour with serious issues is a wonderful way to get other types of people involved that otherwise wouldn't find their way to learn about veganism and animal agriculture.
As a content producer, I always try to implement a tongue-in-cheek kind of approach to advertising. Carnage even goes one step further in a typical British manner: undercooled humour embedded in storytelling. So typical of the UK. I love that.
Paul: I wouldn’t because I do not make any direct recommendations on being vegan. I hate the risk of belittling people, of preaching some sort of lifestyle. We regularly invite a lot of friends to come over to our house and enjoy a good meal, a glass of wine in a relaxed setting (during the pre-Covid times). Then we offer them our plant-based way of dining. It’s delicious and an excellent appetizer for some vegan lifestyle conversations.
That’s how I like to engage friends and business relations. Nowadays, my best friend who is a firefighter in Rotterdam, cooks vegan meals at his base, and some colleagues really love the dishes he serves. We exchange recipes and do virtual “cook-offs”. I would certainly recommend watching this documentary to him because he’s up for it.
Polly: I look at it differently. Maybe it is the fact that my generation is so used to sharing almost everything on social media - which for me also includes recommendations for books, podcasts and movies.
I will not shove it down someone's throat, of course, but I will gladly recommend this movie to everyone who is open to it.
Polly: As vegans, we sometimes don't allow ourselves to understand how non-vegans can eat animals, already creating a huge divide, sometimes forgetting the majority of vegans used to eat animals in the past too.
So, I can imagine that the next generation will not have understanding for us, just as my generation might not have understanding for the horrific actions and systems that were in place just a few decades ago. I wish I was wrong.
Paul: It’s often said about my generation that we are the first to really look after our parents AND our children. Maybe it is true for the (Western-styled) capitalist societies, but other communities and societies have been doing this for millennia.
Anyways, my generation may have some credibility towards the younger generations Y and Z. So if I show my ability to improve and change, it’s noticeably a good thing.
I have to say, younger generations are so friendly and respectful to me. We were not to our parents; to my generation they were obsolete, old-fashioned and understood nothing of modern life ;-). Nowadays, that sentiment no longer seems to live on; a big compliment to younger generations.
Paul: I do not believe in outrage. If we look back in time to a couple of centuries ago, slavery and exploitation of people overseas are things we cannot be proud of. We do need to face mistakes in our past AND be able to learn from them by respecting each other as human beings, care for one another and care for our planet and all animals we share mother Earth with.
Polly: Yes, I think we will. And the next generations who won't grow up eating meat will most likely be even more outraged.
I don't believe that anger is a bad thing. It can be a powerful motivator that stimulates action. I got very angry when I saw what is happening in the animal industry and it triggered a radical change in my lifestyle.
Polly: I just can't wait for the moment that I will hear someone from the next generation saying: “If I would've been born in the nineties or early 2000's, of course I'd be vegan!”
And I am so looking forward to experiencing the time when being vegan is the expected, the default way of living.
Paul: No doubt in my mind veganism will become mainstream. Developments are happening so fast now. The first-movers and early adopters were being criticized as softies: ‘geitenwollensokken’ (which is of course really very paradoxical), tree huggers, cow lovers and what have you.
But when a movement is pushed forward by more and more conscious people, change is within reach. It’s happening now. There is nothing to stop it anymore.
Polly: As much as I'd love to see a vegan world, I do sometimes have my doubts. Will the vast majority be open to such a change in their habits? Will we be able to prioritise the climate and our ethics over profit? But if I'd have to guess, I would say that in 2067 animal agriculture won't be a common practice anymore.
It doesn't matter much to me - as long as we've found the way to end the massive-scale animal suffering and save our environment.
Paul: Hopefully my plant-based food habits get me to a 100+ years old in order to experience 2067 and still have a clear mind. Making use of developments like Artificial Intelligence or living on Mars then, won’t really be for me.
What would matter to me is that we have overcome carnism. A dream became reality — I don’t see any hurdles in accomplishing that bright future.
But in the year 2021, we are fast pacing the path to a meatless and dairy-free future. Disgraceful battles with old-fashioned global food-producing companies about “can we call this vegan yoghurt” or “can we call this a burger” will soon be out of the way.
Vegan food is here to stay and is fastly becoming mainstream and leads to a full vegan and fair lifestyle. Younger generations are really setting the pace here. People like Polly are ahead of the game. If I can contribute something to her generation, I will. They are empowered to make this happen. Lucky me.
If, like us, you are (at least partially) dreaming of a world where veganism isn’t the exception, but the rule, a world where humans and animals truly live in harmony, the mockumentary Carnage: Swallowing the Past (find the link to the movie below) offers you an amusing little sneak peek to such future.
So, grab a bowl full of popcorn and give this movie a chance. And by all means: please share with us which scenes made you laugh the most and what your post-movie reflections are, respond to just this question on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn.
1. 'Simon Amstell: Carnage.' BBC. 2017
2. 'Generation X.' Wikipedia. n.d.