British “MasterChef” critic and magazine editor William Sitwell is battling backlash over a comment he made about “killing vegans, one by one.”
BuzzFeed reported that Sitwell, the former editor of Waitrose Food magazine, made the statement in an email to freelance writer Selene Nelson, who had pitched a series on plant-based cooking.
In his response, Sitwell reportedly wrote to her, “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?”
Following an uproar, Sitwell, who is also a food critic on BBC’s “MasterChef,” apologized and said that he is resigning from his position at the magazine, which states it features “recipes and articles from the world’s best chefs and food writers.”
But he said in a statement Wednesday on Instagram that he wanted to make two remarks.
“Firstly, to reiterate my apology to any food- and life-loving vegan who was genuinely offended by remarks written by me as an ill-judged joke in a private email and now widely reported,” he wrote online. “Second, a word about my team on Waitrose & Partners Food. For two amazing decades I’ve worked with simply the best crew in the business.”
Nelson, who has written for HuffPost, Salon and various other publications, posted what she said was the email exchange on Twitter earlier this week.
In her initial email to Sitwell, Nelson pitched him a regular series on “vegan cooking” for people who are “keen to discover plant-based meal ideas.”
“Even for people not looking to change their diet, I think having some more healthy, eco-friendly meals won’t go amiss, particularity in the New Year! I envisage the feature including recipes as well as commentary, news, maybe with some collaborations with top vegan chefs too (I’ve already chatted to some who are interested),” she wrote.
Following Sitwell’s response about “killing vegans,” trapping them, interrogating them and exposing their “hypocrisy,” Nelson emailed him back, writing that “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. It sounds like you have some opinions on this? I’d love to know more!”
Nelson said on Instagram that she is 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.”
Sitwell is known for his role on “MasterChef” – a critic with an “acid tongue and a distinct dislike of square plates,” according to the Sun.
After Sitwell’s email was made public, it prompted a heated debate on social media, where critics called his comment a “RIDICULOUS response” and questioned how it could be interpreted as a joke.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said in a statement that “In lashing out defensively and nastily over a struck nerve, Mr Sitwell has shown that he’s out of touch with respectful dialogue – as well as with the British public, including Waitrose shoppers.”
John Brown Media, which produces Waitrose & Partners Food magazine, confirmed Wednesday that Sitwell is stepping down as editor.
“I respect William’s decision and have therefore accepted his resignation,” John Brown Media chief executive Andrew Hirsch said in a statement to The Washington Post. “I would like to thank him for his work with ourselves and Waitrose over many years and wish him well for the future. We will work with Waitrose & Partners to appoint a new editor.”
Waitrose & Partners, a grocery store chain, said in a statement that “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 have had a relationship with William for almost 20 years,” they said, “and are grateful for his contribution to our business over that time.”