Waitrose Food magazine editor William Sitwell has resigned over his remarks about ‘killing vegans’ and force-feeding them meat, but some social media users have come to his defence saying the comments were a ‘harmless joke’.
Mr Sitwell wrote a hostile email to vegan freelancer Selene Nelson who had pitched an idea for the magazine, saying: ‘How about a series on killing vegans, one by one’.
Waitrose said Mr Sitwell, who had worked with them for 20 years, was leaving with immediate effect ‘in the light of his recent email remarks’.
The news that Mr Sitwell had decided to quit met with a mixed reaction on social media, where some felt his comments were meant as a joke but others thought his behaviour was out of order in a professional context.
William Sitwell (left) has resigned after he told vegan freelancer Selene Nelson (right) in response to her story pitch: ‘How about a series on killing vegans, one by one’
Some social media users defended Mr Sitwell, saying his comments had been a ‘harmless joke’ in a private email and that he should not have chosen to resign over the matter
Some social media users said he was wrong to resign, including BBC presenter Giles Coren, 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. You should be able to take the p*** and not lose your job.’
Matt Spicer said on Twitter: ‘Waitrose food fella. I feel for you. It was a joke. You shouldn’t lose your job over a harmless joke. People are so thin-skinned these days.’
Tom Parker Bowles, the son of the Duchess of Cornwall, said: ‘This whole William Sitwell business is a disgrace.
‘A brilliant editor, forced to resign (I assume) over a joke. Waitrose have simply capitulated at the merest whiff of manufactured outrage. Pathetic.’
Ms Nelson declined to comment today but many other social media users welcomed Mr Sitwell’s departure.
One said: ‘Hopefully William Sitwell does some self reflection on why he responded to the request the way he did.
‘It was not a personal email and if it was a “joke” surely not to be said to a relative stranger? Please examine where that anger came from.’
In a hostile email Mr Sitwell told Selene Nelson, who had suggested a regular feature on vegan food, that the series could involve making vegans eat steak and exposing ‘their hypocrisy’
Mr Sitwell told Selene Nelson (pictured), who had suggested a feature on vegan food, that the series could involve making vegans eat steak and exposing ‘their hypocrisy’
Another wrote: ‘If the editor of your food mag doesn’t understand the major shift in the food market, and is the kind of person who responds to pitches like that, he’s gotta go.’
A third said: ‘Vegans get a bad rep, “preachy, aggressive, hostile”. I see a lot more of this behaviour from defensive meat eaters.
‘I’m sick of seeing this attitude towards people who are actually trying to live with compassion and help the environment.’
Food journalist Ms Nelson had written to Mr Sitwell with a pitch for a ‘plant-based meal series’ for the supermarket’s magazine featuring recipes, commentary and news.
Mr Sitwell replied: ‘Hi Selene. 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?’
The magazine claims on its website to have 680,000 readers. Mr Sitwell writes for several UK publications and is a critic on Masterchef UK.
Waitrose said in a statement today: ‘We have 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’ve 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.’
Others welcomed Mr Sitwell’s resignation, saying it had been a professional setting and that the editor of a food magazine should not have criticised a large part of his readership
A petition calling for Sitwell to resign or be removed had reached more than 2,000 signatures by Wednesday morning.
Waitrose should replace him with ‘an editor who is respectful of others and their choices’, the petition said.
Mr Sitwell – full name William Ronald Sacheverell Sitwell – is a great-nephew of avant garde poet Dame Edith Sitwell.
He was once married to aristocrat Laura McCorquodale, a kinswoman of famous romantic author Dame Barbara Cartland.
Last year he tied the knot to his second wife, Emily Lopes, daughter of the late Devonshire race-horse breeder the 3rd Lord Roborough.
The Sitwell family has held a baronetcy for more than 200 years and has owned the country house of Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire for even longer.
Emily’s cousin, Harry, is married to Laura Parker Bowles, daughter of the Duchess of Cornwall.
After the remarks emerged earlier this week Waitrose said they were ‘extremely inappropriate, insensitive and absolutely do not represent our views’.
A petition calling for Sitwell to resign or be removed as editor of the magazine (pictured) had reached more than 2,000 signatures by Wednesday morning
Mr Sitwell had earlier said in a statement: ‘I love and respect people of all appetites be they vegan, vegetarian or meat eaters, which I show week in week out through my writing, editing and broadcasting.
‘I apologise profusely to anyone who has been offended or upset by this.’
HuffPost and Food Republic writer Nelson said she had never experienced such hostility when pitching to a media platform.
‘I was just shocked because I had never had a response like that,’ she said. ‘I said to him that it “seems like you have some strong opinions on this”.’
She 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.
‘And he’s the editor. He’s representing Waitrose and he’s talking about ‘killing vegans, one by one’?’
She added: ‘If William Sitwell wants to continue eating meat and hating vegans, that’s his prerogative, but to have this attitude towards others when he’s representing Waitrose is seriously bizarre.’
On Instagram she wrote: ‘I’m a vegan because I don’t support the torment and slaughter of 156 billion animals each year, nor the catastrophic devastation it causes our planet.
‘Belittling and mocking people who care about animals and the environment is neither edgy nor cool.’
Nelson stressed she was not telling him to become a vegan but instead asking him to include a more plant-based recipes.
After the remarks emerged earlier this week Waitrose said they were ‘extremely inappropriate, insensitive and absolutely do not represent our views’ (file photo)
She replied to him: ‘Thanks for your interesting response. I drank some delicious (vegan) red wine last night so I’m sure a feature on that would appeal.
‘I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘exposing their hypocrisy’, but I’m certainly interested in why just the mention of veganism seems to make some people so hostile.
‘It sounds like you have some opinions on this? I’d love to know more! Thanks, Selene.’
Earlier this year, writing about 2018’s ‘foodie trends’ in The Times, Mr Sitwell slammed an ‘avalanche’ of vegan cookbooks.
‘Then, like an avalanche of Tory ministerial resignations, came the vegan snowball,’ he wrote.
‘It had slow beginnings among shampoo-averse hippies in the 1970s, but now vegans are parking their tanks on all of our lawns.’
The upmarket supermarket launched a new vegan range earlier this month.