Quantcast

Food Editor Resigns After Writing 'Killing Vegans' Comment

Food
William Sitwell at the fifth annual Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards on May 11, 2017 in London, England. David M. Benett / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Why do people hate vegans? As I wrote this week to mark World Vegan Day, the strict, meat-free lifestyle has many admirable qualities—it spares the lives of countless animals, it can be good for one's health and it's especially good for the planet's health.

Still, as the controversy over William Sitwell's resignation from the UK's Waitrose Food magazine shows, veganism can stir up a lot of hostility.


In case you haven't heard, the magazine editor resigned on Wednesday after news got out about his response to a freelance journalist's pitch of a "plant-based meal series" for the popular British publication.

"How about a series on killing vegans one by one," Sitwell wrote in an email back to Selene Nelson, the vegan food writer. "Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat? Make them eat steak and drink red wine?"

The email exchange was first reported by Buzzfeed News earlier this week.

Nelson was shocked by Sitwell's response and told Buzzfeed News she had "never seen anything like this."

"I've written about many divisive topics, like capital punishment and murder cases and domestic violence, and I've never had a response like that to any of my articles or pitches," she said.

In an Instagram post Wednesday, Sitwell said he stepped down as editor and apologized "to any food- and life-loving vegan who was genuinely offended by remarks written by me as an ill-judged joke in a private email and now widely reported."

Sitwell, who is also a food critic on the show MasterChef UK, has been critical of veganism before. "It had slow beginnings among shampoo-averse hippies in the 1970s, but now vegans are parking their tanks on all of our lawns and their instruction manuals are coming like propaganda pamphlets dropping from the sky," he wrote a January article for The Times of London.

But his (now former) employer said the recent remarks had "gone too far."

"Even though this was a private email William's gone too far and his words are extremely inappropriate, insensitive and absolutely do not represent our views," Waitrose said in a statement to Buzzfeed.

There wasn't much to dislike about Nelson's pitch. In an op-ed for The Independent after Sitwell's resignation, the writer said her pitch was inspired by Waitrose's announcement that plant-based sales had soared 85 per cent and her story ideas would appeal to "anyone looking to eat more healthily and sustainably."

Scientists behind the most in-depth study to date of the ecological footprint of agriculture determined that the best thing an individual can do to fight climate change, promote biodiversity and protect the environment overall, is go vegan.

On top of that, the number of Britons switching to plant-based diets has increased. In the UK, roughly 600,000 people identify as vegan, up from 540,000 in 2016, the UK-based Vegan Society told the New York Times.

And yet vegans continue to be targeted. As Nelson wrote in her op-ed:

I can't comment on the precise circumstances of William Sitwell's departure, but I do think his response—to a pitch from a journalist expecting a professional reply—was a shame, and speaks to a wider problem.

Today Good Morning Britain included a segment entitled "Is hating vegans the new norm?" What a strange and sad headline. Veganism isn't about trying to make people feel bad. It isn't about shaming or pointing fingers. It's a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals. Away from the ethics, a vegan diet has become increasingly popular with people exploring ways to improve their footprint and health. These are not things to mock.

The Good Morning Britain segment surrounded the controversy over Sitwell's comments and about the public perception of vegans, who have diets and lifestyles free of animal products.

"You can't invite them out, you can't go anywhere with them," radio host Niall Boylan told host Susanna Reid.

Nelson continued:

Yes, some vegans are annoying. So are some meat-eaters. Some are preachy. Some are not. You cannot generalize about millions of people.

Vegans are often criticized for being dogmatic, militant, too extreme or unnecessarily antagonistic. But if this disappointing exchange exposes anything, it's the belligerent attitude that, sadly, many vegans experience every day, simply for trying to make a positive lifestyle change.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Winfield, Missouri this month. Jonathan Rehg / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Reed Hoffmann / Getty Images

Violent tornadoes tore through Missouri Wednesday night, killing three and causing "extensive damage" to the state's capital of Jefferson City, The New York Times reported.

"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."

Read More Show Less