Last month, a vegan freelance journalist sent a pitch to her favourite food magazine by emailing the then-editor of Waitrose Food, William Sitwell.
In the email, the journalist, Selene Nelson, proposed a series on plant-based food that would include recipes, tips, and new ingredients to try in the kitchen. “The series wouldn’t just appeal to vegans,” Nelson wrote last month. “[B]ut anyone looking to eat more healthily and sustainably.”
Sitwell wrote a mocking email in response, suggesting instead to create a series about “killing vegans, one by one,” including ways to trap, interrogate, and force-feed steak to those who don’t eat animal products.
Nelson posted the exchange online, causing people from around the world to comment, with many choosing to hurl profanities at both parties involved. The incident eventually led Sitwell to step down from his position as editor for Waitrose Food.
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However, since then, the pair have met in order to put the whole fiasco to bed. Meeting in person for the first time, Sitwell and Nelson shared vegan tortillas at London’s first 100 percent plant-based pub, i newspaper reports.
BBC’s “The One Show” aired the meetup, where the two found common ground in the large amounts of hate mail they both received. The hostility was “pretty immense and grotesque and angry and revolting,” Sitwell said, explaining the death threats people had sent to himself and his family. Nelson received similar responses.
Speaking about the initial email exchange between them, Nelson said she was “very shocked” at first. “I hoped you weren’t really serious about killing vegans… I assumed you were being facetious, but I didn’t know what was behind that,” she said.
“The first thing you have to develop as a vegan is a sense of humour… there are funny vegan jokes and there are the ones that aren’t funny,” Nelson later added.
When the email exchange was initially made public, many accused Nelson, and the vegan community as a whole, of being “too extreme.” Writing about this view for the Independent, she explained, “Veganism isn’t about trying to make people feel bad. It isn’t about shaming or pointing fingers. It’s a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals.”
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“Away from the ethics, a vegan diet has become increasingly popular with people exploring ways to improve their footprint and health. These are not things to mock,” Nelson added.
Speaking in person to Sitwell in London, she said she was sorry that he had lost his job. “That was never my intention, never what I set out to do [when making the emails public],” she said.
Sitwell also apologised, labelling his behaviour as “flippant and immature and silly.”
Writing on social media about the meeting, Nelson highlighted the importance of treating others with respect, regardless of differences. She said that, since the meeting, Sitwell had shown her “nothing but kindness.”
“I think the fact that we’re able to discuss these crucial issues, listen to each other and not hurl insults sends a positive message, and that hopefully some of the nastiness shown by both sides of the argument will abate,” Nelson said.
Sitwell, who has a role on the popular cooking television series “MasterChef,” suggested that he and Nelson could collaborate to “explain the world of food and describe it to people of our persuasions.”
And, he noted, the vegan tortillas were “delicious.”
Image Credit: William Sitwell
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