Following the recent news story that the editor of a popular food magazine was forced to resign after an email exchange was made public between himself and freelance journalist, Selene Nelson, who had emailed the editor to politely pitch a series of vegan-related articles for the magazine only to receive a hostile, abrupt, and somewhat threatening response, it got us thinking here at Fed Up & Drunk: why are people still so hostile towards vegans and a vegan diet?
Last year, the demand for vegan food rose by a whopping 140% while people in the UK are said to be eating 50% less beef and veal than they did in 1975. 16% of people not currently on a plant-based diet said they’d consider taking one up, a third of meat eaters admitted they couldn’t eat meat if they had to kill the animals themselves, and a fifth of all meat eaters said their consumption of meat has decreased in the last year, so it’s clear this trend is only going to continue to rise in the future. So why all of this hostility?
Here at Fed Up & Drunk, we think food should be a joyous thing and the diversity in our diets is a part of what makes us all unique. We all have our own tastes and we’re not going to agree on everything, but that’s part of what makes life interesting. Some people can’t stand pineapple on a pizza, some people loathe marmite, while others recoil at the site of oysters, but why are some people so aggressive with their language when it comes to insisting that people eat meat? Is it because of some internalised guilt meat eaters feel over their carnivorous ways, is it because they feel people who choose to live by a vegan diet are judging them with their culinary choices, or is it some caveman-like commitment to the idea that humans must eat meat?
No one likes to feel judged based on their eating habits. Whether you like to binge on junk food or think Brussels sprouts are the best part of a Christmas dinner, what food you like, like the music you listen to or your favourite films, is a part of who you are, but it was clear in this case that there was no hostility from food journalist and vegan Selene Nelson, just a desire to share her love of the vegan lifestyle with the world. The response to her request, which suggested instead a series on killing vegans, trapping them, interrogating them properly, force-feeding them meat or exposing their hypocrisy, whether it was meant as a joke or not, was somehow as unsurprising as it was uncalled for. This is the kind of ignorance and backlash vegans have been facing for years. But as the popularity of veganism in this country continues to rise, why are we still seeing this kind of backward behaviour from people, let alone the editor of one of the country’s top food magazines?
Nelson told BuzzFeed News, “I’ve never seen anything like it. 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 continued, “I’m not judging people who eat meat – I wasn’t a vegan for 28 years of my life, but having such an angry, vitriolic response to someone who’s simply trying to reduce the harm they cause to animals and the environment is something I can’t understand”.
In response to the magazine editor’s resignation following this response, controversial celebrity Piers Morgan said in support of the editor over twitter, “Let me get this straight: magazine editor makes obvious joke in private email to freelancer who pitched him – and now he’s had to resign? All because the vegan social media mafia threw their lentil toys out of the pram? Ridiculous”, while radio and television presenter Ian Collins agreed, stating over twitter, “A man’s 20 year career thrown out of the window because someone got offended by some jokes about vegans. What kind of messed up world are we living in.”
Earlier this year, we spoke to chef-proprietor of vegan restaurant Acorn in Bath and author of vegan cookbook, Plants Taste Better, Richard Buckley, about his memories of being raised as a vegetarian and the judgement his parents faced:
“They had huge problems from healthcare visitors and midwives. Some of them even inferred it was tantamount to child abuse. It was only when my mum began to keep a food diary for me they declared that I had one of the most balanced diets they had seen. My grandfather announced that I wouldn’t grow but had to backtrack rapidly when I overtook him by age 10!”
He later went on to say, “I think that ignorance is a thing of the past now. When I was growing up, being vegetarian was a thing of ridicule and you always got asked if you miss bacon or how you live without a burger, now people tend to be very quick to tell you that they don’t eat much meat or that their daughter or friend is a vegan.”
As more and more people across the country choose the vegan lifestyle, the backlash against vegans may be decreasing, but it’s clear from this response to a simple vegan article pitch from the editor of one of the country’s top food magazines that there is still a long way to go.