Environmental campaigner George Monbiot is about as popular with British farmers as a late subsidy cheque. No surprise then his documentary Apocalypse Cow: How Meat Killed the Planet (Channel 4, 8 January, 10pm) was slammed as “clueless”, “cruel” and “rubbish” by farmers on social media - before it even aired.
Having seen the programme, they’ll no doubt be even more upset. Monbiot argued all farming was devastating to the environment and would “come to an end within a few decades”. In the future, he claimed, all food except fruit & veg would be produced in a lab.
To prove his point, Monbiot took viewers on a tour of the UK countryside, pointing out the lack of wildlife he blamed on our dependence on grazing livestock. After trying (and failing) to convince a beef farmer in Wales that rewilding her land would be beneficial for the climate, he met some anglers moaning about manure in watercourses before jetting off to Finland to visit a plant run by Solar Foods, which has pioneered the creation of Solein - a protein made from soil bacteria and hydrogen.
But while Monbiot made some interesting points on food production, the programme failed to tackle the big questions around his solution of switching to lab-grown food. How much would it cost? How would we make the transition? Nor did he consider the pitfalls of placing all food production into the hands of tech firms.
Was it cruel? Perhaps not. But viewers were certainly left clueless about the real implications of a lab-grown revolution.