Earlier this week, Buzzfeed reported on an email sent by Waitrose magazine food editor William Sitwell in response to a pitch from a freelance food writer in the U.K. The pitch was about plant-based cooking. The response was a joke about murdering vegans, haha. Now, the BBC reports that Sitwell is stepping down, effective immediately.
Sitwell shared this Instagram post after news of his resignation broke, stating that he wished 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.” That apology presumably does not extend to vegans who hate food, hate life, or were only fake-offended.
Several other journalists have rallied around Sitwell, including Giles Coren, the restaurant critic for the Times, who said:
“I have great sympathy for William Sitwell.
“It was a stupid email but should not be a career-ender. Vegans are not a race or a gender or a sexual orientation or a differently-abled group. They just choose to eat plants.”
The BBC also notes that Peter Oborne of The Spectator called the situation “a dark day for free expression,” adding that Sitwell was “driven from his job by relentless Twitter trolls.”
The issue here isn’t really free expression though, is it? The issue is that Sitwell responded to a prospective employee with a joke that is, at best, both aggressive and tasteless. And that’s at best. The vegan thing really has nothing to do with it. If Selene Nelson, the writer in question, had proposed a series about, say, bagels, and Sitwell had responded with the following email because he’s anti-bagel, would that be okay? To be clear, this is the exact email Sitwell sent Nelson, with vegan stuff swapped for bagel stuff. We’ve bolded what was changed.
Thanks for this.
How about a series on killing people who like bagels, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them doughnuts? Make them eat avocado toast and drink red wine?
Of course not. If you sent an email like that, then you’re doing a spectacularly shitty job. This has nothing to do with meat. This is about not being a total asshole. Pretty straightforward.