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Vegans aren't putting in or out on anybody - so how about we stop making tired jokes about them?

“Why is it that the same people who condemn others for being easily offended are triggered by the notion of a Linda McCartney sausage?”

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Morning all. Some news: : John Brown statement, 31.10.18. ‘John Brown Media has today announced that William Sitwell is stepping down as Editor of the Waitrose & Partners Food magazine with immediate effect. Andrew Hirsch, CEO, said: ‘I respect William’s decision and have therefore accepted his resignation. I would like to thank him for his work with ourselves and Waitrose over many years and wish him well for the future. We will work with Waitrose & Partners to appoint a new editor.’ . Waitrose statement, 31.10.18. ‘We have today been informed by John Brown Media, who produce the Waitrose & Partners Food Magazine, that William Sitwell is stepping down as Editor of Waitrose & Partners Food magazine with immediate effect. In the light of William's recent email remarks, we have told John Brown Media that we believe this is the right and proper move - we will be working with them to appoint a new editor for the magazine. We have had a relationship with William for almost 20 years and are grateful for his contribution to our business over that time.’ . Today I just want to make two points. : Firstly, to reiterate my apology 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. : Second, a word about my team on Waitrose & Partners Food. For two amazing decades I’ve worked with simply the best crew in the business. There is no more talented art director than Kerry Wakefield, my lovely deputy Jess, PA Morgan, Dr Lucy heading food, Ashleigh on features, Kat and the fab art and subbing team. Thank you - we never stopped laughing (til now!). : This issue from Jan 2017 - with a striking image taken by the gifted Jonathan Gregson - is one I’m particularly proud of. We even refused advertising from those proffering meat-based products.

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IT HAS BEEN a big week for vegans. Not only did they celebrate World Vegan Day yesterday, but they also inadvertently found themselves at the centre of a media storm. You may have heard about William Sitwell, the editor of Waitrose Food magazine, who was forced to stand down from his post this week after making a rather deranged joke about “killing vegans, one by one” to a freelance journalist.

Freelance journalist Selene Nelson had pitched a series on plant-based meals to Sitwell. His response? “Thanks for this. How about a series on killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat? Make them eat steak and drink red wine?”

A fairly disproportionate and hostile response to a wholly reasonable pitch, I’m sure you’ll agree. Nelson shared the exchange with Buzzfeed and it was quickly condemned by many quarters. Waitrose stated that he had “gone too far”. Two days later, he announced his resignation and reiterated his apology “to any food- and life-loving vegan who was genuinely offended by remarks written by me as an ill-judged joke in a private e-mail”. 

The episode caused a great deal of consternation. Some argued that it was a misguided joke, but not a sacking offence. The usual suspects maintained that vegans needed to toughen up and stop acting like such snowflakes. Hell, our own Niall Boylan even appeared on Good Morning Britain to have a debate with Adrian Chiles about the whole thing.

Well, he is obsessed with them.

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 5.42.54 PM Source: Niall Boylan Show/Twitter

Whether or not you agree with Sitwell’s firing, can’t we all agree that jokes at the expense of vegans are tired? I am not a vegan – not even close. I am neither disciplined nor principled enough to pursue it as a lifestyle. Plus I like cheese way too much. But I cannot for the life of me understand why veganism as a concept brings out the bloodthirst in certain people.

Why is it that the mere mention of tofu sends some people into a tailspin? Why do people feel the need to express their love of ‘big, juicy burgers’ as though they are penning some sort of meat-based erotica? Why is it that the same people who condemn others for being easily offended are triggered by the notion of a Linda McCartney sausage? 

As far as I am concerned, vegans aren’t putting in or out on anybody. Just as I wouldn’t take umbrage with a beer drinker not drinking wine, I can’t fathom why anyone would take issue with someone for following a diet that differs to their own.

People follow the diet for their own reasons. Some are doing it for moral/ethical reasons, others just want to feel good. There’s nothing wrong with either. Sure, you might come across the odd one who is a bit pious but let me tell you this: I would take a pious vegan over a middle-aged man spluttering about steak any day of the week. 

Is it the case that veganism makes some people feel defensive about their own diets? Or is it that it’s viewed as an extension of the cultural wars being fought at the moment? I don’t know. What I do know is that your vegan jokes are probably a little stale once you have mainstream athletes like Lewis Hamilton including ‘plant based diet’ in their Instagram bios.

So let vegans eat their chickpea scramble in peace and stop using them as a cheap punchline. After all, it is probably vegans who will have the last laugh – just look at how fresh-faced renowned vegan Ellen DeGeneres is at age 60. Coincidence? I think not. 

About the author:

Amy O'Connor

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