Vegan joke no reason for pillorying Barbara Ellen, Comment,
has been feasting on the carcass of the William Sitwell vegan debacle to the point where it’s started to feel like a MasterChef cannibal special.
For those who missed it, Waitrose Food magazine editor Sitwell replied to freelancer Selene Nelson’s suggested article on vegan food with an email saying he’d like to print a feature on “killing vegans, one by one”. After an outcry, he apologised and then resigned.
Predictably, opinions swiftly polarised. Some felt Sitwell’s response was both unprofessional and offensive. Others argued it was a private email, vegan jokes should be allowed and attacks on Sitwell were an affront to free speech.
I find myself torn. Sitwell didn’t behave professionally, politely or even with any awareness of Waitrose’s new vegan and vegetarian ranges. Moreover, as a lifelong vegetarian, I know how “my kind” are relentlessly ridiculed. I can only presume it must be even worse for vegans. As a sidebar, baiters have been riffing forever about hunting/ eating vegetarians and vegans and other classic “jokes”. It’s all got a bit end of the pier and they seriously need to up their comedy game.
However, I still don’t think that Sitwell, or anyone else, should lose his job over something like this. Not only was it a sorry overreaction but Sitwell’s old Etonian buddy, Jacob Rees-Mogg, publicly supported him – wasn’t that punishment enough?
More seriously, vegetarians and vegans need to stay self-aware. People turn against meat for a variety of reasons and for many, including myself, it can become very personal and heartfelt. However, while they take a lot of flak, it’s still a choice – we aren’t oppressed minorities and it’s undignified and inappropriate to act as if we are.