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Waitrose says in-house food mag editor's ‘killing vegans’ reply to freelance pitch went 'too far'

Waitrose

Supermarket chain Waitrose has said it would be “taking up” an email with the editor of its in-house magazine in which he proposed a series of stories about “killing” vegans and force-feeding them meat. 

William Sitwell made the comments in response to a features pitch from freelance food and travel writer Selene Nelson on 23 October, in which she suggested the magazine run a series on vegan cooking.

Sitwell replied: “How about a series on killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Exposing their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat? Make them eat steak and drink red wine?”

He has since apologised for the comments, first reported by Buzzfeed News, while Waitrose has distanced itself from his remarks, saying they do not represent its views.

A Waitrose spokesperson told Press Gazette: “We will be taking this up with William.”

In an earlier statement, Waitrose said: “Even though this was a private email William’s gone too far and his words are extremely inappropriate, insensitive and absolutely do not represent our views.”

Vegan journalist Nelson told Buzzfeed: “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’?”

Waitrose Food is a free monthly magazine with a distribution of just under 700,000 copies, according to ABC figures for the six months to the end of June this year.

The title is owned by publisher John Brown, who has declined to comment on the matter.

Sitwell has appeared as a critic on the BBC series Masterchef and has written food articles for a host of UK publications.

In an article on “foodie trends” for The Times earlier this year, Sitwell wrote: “Then, like an avalanche of Tory ministerial resignations, came the vegan snowball.

“It had slow beginnings among shampoo-averse hippies in the 1970s, but now vegans are parking their tanks on all of our lawns.

“And their instruction manuals are coming like propaganda pamphlets dropping from the sky.

In a statement, Sitwell told Press Gazette: “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.”

In a response to Sitwell on Twitter, Nelson wrote: “Thanks for your interesting response… I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘exposing their hypocrisy’ but I’m certainly interested in exploring why just the mention of veganism seems to make some people so hostile.”

Picture: BBC Masterchef UK/John Brown Media

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