It is one of the most shocking ultimatums delivered on television. Go vegetarian or we kill your pet.
But a new British reality TV show called Meat the Family goes even further. Not only will a family of unrepentant carnivores have to let an animal they have adopted and grown to love go for slaughter if they refuse to stop eating meat – they will be asked to cook and eat it.
With experts saying that we have to eat less meat to stave off climate change, the Channel 4 show challenges four heavy meat-eating families to take home and look after the “animal which ends up most often on their plates”.
Analyst Virginia Mouseler called the show “the most transgressive” of the year at MIPCOM, the world’s biggest entertainment market in Cannes, France.
Jonathan Safran Foer: why we must cut out meat and dairy before dinner to save the planet
“It is not sex or drugs anymore. Meat is becoming the next taboo,” the influential founder of The Wit database added.
“The question they are asking is how can you cuddle your dog while you are putting another animal in the oven?”
In the first episodes of Meat the Family, that involves a lamb, a pig, a chicken and a calf.
“They have to treat this animal like a member of the family for three weeks,” Mouseler said.
“Then in the end they have to decide whether they put it in the oven” or whether it goes to an animal sanctuary.
Channel 4 said the three hour-long shows will confront “the reality of an animal’s journey from field to plate.”
They said the show also seriously examines “animal behaviour and intelligence, the farming practices required to meet the demands of hungry consumers … and the environmental impact of the meat industry.”
Daniela Neumann, head of the makers Spun Gold, defended the premise, saying it was taking on “some really timely themes of ethical eating” and well as asking difficult questions.
“Why do we find it acceptable to eat a lamb but we wouldn’t eat our pet dog? Could you go back to meat once you’ve put a name and face to a meal?”
She insisted the series – which will air in the New Year – also contained some “heart-warming moments”.
With interest from buyers brisk, the show is likely to go international quickly.
Vegan college menus on the rise as students return to university
Meat the Family is one of a wave of new shows that deal with social responsibility.
In Channel 4’s Segregation Experiment, a diverse class of British schoolchildren discover how racist ideas can slip unconsciously into the culture and how unconscious bias can affect people’s lives.
Mouseler said racial prejudice would be tested in a class of 11- and 12-year-old kids “games and activities” as the programme poses the question, “Could we be racist without knowing it?”