No mince pies, no creamy liqueurs, No cheeseboard. Admittedly, that does sound sad. Yet it is far from the reality of a vegan Christmas. This has been the year that veganism went mainstream. From dedicated vegan aisles in supermarkets to veggie burgers that look and taste eerily like the real thing, the plant-based movement has never been more prevalent — and as a vegan, I couldn’t be happier. Gone are the days when people thought we only ate lentils and salad; almost gone are the days where we’re continually asked: “But what about protein?”
What’s surprised me most about being vegan is just how angry it makes some people. I’m continually forced to defend my decision not to eat animal products, and I’m frequently faced with derision or anger if I explain it.
Last week, I pitched an article to my favourite food magazine. Inspired by Waitrose’s announcement that plant-based sales had soared 85 per cent, I emailed Waitrose Food‘s editor, William Sitwell, about a new series on vegan food: plant-based recipes, tips from vegan chefs, new ways of cooking with new ingredients. This series wouldn’t just appeal to vegans, I wrote, but anyone looking to eat more healthily and sustainably. The email was sent in a professional capacity, to the email address Sitwell publicises on his website – not, as claimed, a “private email”.
The response I received to my pitch shocked me. It claimed he should instead commission a series about “killing vegans”, to “expose their hypocrisy” and “force-feed them meat”. I responded to the email in a lighthearted way. I tried to engage Sitwell in conversation, to find out why he had such negative feelings about vegans and why he felt that was an appropriate response to an earnest pitch. I didn’t get any answers.
Today it’s been announced that Sitwell has stepped down from his role as Waitrose editor, after his response received backlash on social media. In the past few hours I’ve been asked repeatedly for my thoughts on the matter. I can’t comment on the precise circumstances of William Sitwell’s departure, but I do think his response – to a pitch from a journalist expecting a professional reply – was a shame, and speaks to a wider problem.
Today Good Morning Britain included a segment entitled “Is hating vegans the new norm?”. What a strange and sad headline. 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. 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.
This month, the UN stated that we have just 12 years before the world we know is lost forever. Studies at the University of Oxford show that veganism is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on earth. The world’s largest organisation of nutritional professionals have stated that a vegan diet is sufficiently healthy at every stage of life, including pregnancy. This isn’t “vegan propaganda”. Being vegan doesn’t mean you’re virtue-signalling or pretending to be perfect. It means you’re trying to align your actions with your morals. When did this become something to scorn?
Those who defend Sitwell say it was “just a joke.” That of course he was being facetious. But that’s not the point. This isn’t about Sitwell or why he resigned, it’s about why it’s accepted or considered funny to speak to vegans with hostility and anger.
The lentil-munching, tree-hugging vegan trope is outdated and unhelpful, and the idea that vegans are militant aggressors seeking only to shame and convert people to a hippy, hemp-based lifestyle is simply untrue. There are now more than 3.5 million vegans in the UK, and many are as far removed from the old stereotype as you can get: Lewis Hamilton, David Haye… Yes, some vegans are annoying. So are some meat-eaters. Some are preachy. Some are not. You cannot generalise about millions of people.
Vegans are often criticised for being dogmatic, militant, too extreme or unnecessarily antagonistic. But if this disappointing exchange exposes anything, it’s the belligerent attitude that, sadly, many vegans experience every day, simply for trying to make a positive lifestyle change. Vegans are not “snowflakes”. Perhaps the real “snowflakes”, if we insist upon using this term, are those who become defensive and abusive when anyone dares question the status quo.
From this experience I will take away only the positives: how encouraging the widespread support for veganism has been, how Waitrose and other major retailers are investing in plant-based food, and how – despite waves of irrational anger and aggression from some quarters – there is a mounting support for eating a more ethical and sustainable diet.
Barcelona is a city that you could spend a month in and barely skim the surface. Despite being Spain’s second city, it’s the undisputed number one when it comes to culture, cuisine, drinking, style and electric energy. But how can time-poor travellers maximise on the abundance of treats offered by this popular destination in two short days? Barcelona’s diversity plays a major role in its appeal: you can traverse the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter, kick back on sandy beaches, sip cocktails in historic bars, feast on fresh tapas in buzzing markets, and marvel at Gaudí’s spectacular Sagrada Família. Here’s our streamlined, time-savvy guide to Barca’s absolute essentials – with a smattering of new and offbeat openings thrown in.
Consistently ranked as one of the best cities to live in, Vienna enchants from the moment you arrive. Known around the world for its culture – in particular its music and art – the Austrian capital is packed with excellent restaurants, beautiful museums, artisan boutiques and innumerable cafés and coffee shops. From the cobbled complex of the MuseumsQuartier to trendy districts that come alive at night, here’s where to stay, what to eat and what to do in this stately, historic city.
In recent years, even the most ardent meat-lovers would find it hard to ignore the rise of veganism. The most recent research estimates that six percent of Americans now follow a vegan diet — a staggering increase of 600% in just three years.
While the idea that vegans just eat salad prevails among some, the notion that you can eat healthily and deliciously without animal products is catching on. The Big Apple is a great place to discover how versatile a vegan diet can be. So where should you eat vegan food in New York City? Just about anywhere!
For backpackers, tourists, or anyone who travels for work, trying exotic new cuisines is one of the best things about travelling. Who wouldn’t be excited to try authentic empanadas in Mexico, steaming-hot street food in Vietnam, or a plate of fresh gnocchi in Italy?
But if you don’t eat meat, fish, dairy or eggs, things can be more difficult. Though the vegan movement is growing quickly, in many countries meals still centre around animal products, and the very concept of veganism can be met with bewilderment.