New TV show asks: Do you love meat enough to cook your pet?

Cannes (France) (AFP) –


It is one of the most shocking ultimatums ever delivered on television.

Go vegetarian or we kill your pet.

But a new taboo-smashing 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, Channel 4 has made the dilemma stomach-churningly stark.

Four heavy meat-eating families have 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.

"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.

- Putting a face on your meal -

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 also contained some "heart-warming moments".

"Meat the family" is one of a wave of new shows that deal with social responsibility and ways to heal our fractured world.

They include another Channel 4 show which touches a still pricklier taboo, everyday racism.

In the "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.

- 'Racist without knowing it' -

"Racial prejudice is tested in a class of 11- and 12-year-old kids," Mouseler said, "through games and activities" as the programme poses the question, "Could we be racist without knowing it?"

A new Dutch show, "The Cocaine Trials", and the British Channel 5 series "Doing Drugs for Fun?" both confront casual cocaine users with the consequences of their habit on the Colombian communities where the substance is illegally farmed and refined.

Mouseler said the shows confronts millennials, who say they care about the planet, with their "double standards" and brings home a few home truths about the devastation the trade causes both in South America and in Europe.

Another Dutch show called "Take Over, Take Care" has celebrities move in with sick and elderly people to give their caregivers some respite and allow them to go on holiday.

The show is meant to highlight how one in three people have to look after relatives or friends.

Broadcasters in Germany, Britain and Ireland are also looking at age in two similar social experiments, putting lonely elderly people living in homes that are too big for them together with cash-starved millennials who cannot afford to rent.

"Lodgers" and "OAP B&B" both serve up cross-generational cultural shock which often forges genuine and quite touching friendships, an idea the Australian pilot "My 80 Year Old Flatmate" has also played with.

MTV, meanwhile, has tackled the painful phenomenon of online "ghosting", where people cut off friends without explanation, by bringing former pals together to attempt to resolve their differences.