Friday, February 21, 2020

Two gladiators of the diet debate put down their knives  

Dec 05. 2018
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While I prefer to chew over education issues in my contributions to this page, I also enjoy the regular battles between vegan gladiators and their carnivore critics.

This week I came across a tasty morsel of information that I thought was worth throwing into the arena of debate.

In “Viewpoint: Why do people mock vegans?”, the BBC presents a report of what happened after vegan activist Selene Nelson pitched a series of articles on plant-based food to magazine editor William Sitwell. 

He wrote back suggesting a series on “killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat.”

Sitwell was forced to resign in the storm that followed. Nelson explains what it was like at the centre of that storm. 

As it turned out, Sitwell had meant the reply to be a light-hearted joke, but their resulting exchange had ignited a storm of anti-vegan vitriol among social media users.   

Said Nelson of the exchange: “It was about why it’s accepted or considered funny to treat vegans with hostility and anger. I am sorry that William Sitwell lost his job, but I don’t regret exposing his email.”

The two eventually met and made up on the BBC current affairs programme “The One Show”.

“I’m thrilled William is happy to be a part of this discussion too,” said Nelson. “[H]e has said he hopes we can work together to ‘explain the world of food and describe it to people of our persuasions’. I hope so too, and I think it sends a powerful message: if two people with different opinions – particularly two people depicted as adversaries in the media – can come together, speak intelligently and explore this issue without hurling abuse, then we’ve actually got somewhere. We’ve made progress, as a species.”

Dirk Sumter

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