Waitrose Food magazine editor William Sitwell steps down after ‘killing vegans’ reply to freelance pitch

The editor of Waitrose Food magazine has stepped down over comments he made in an email to a freelance in which he proposed a series on “killing vegans” and force-feeding them meat.

Editor William Sitwell’s resignation comes a day after supermarket chain Waitrose said it would be “taking up” the comments with him.

Freelance food and travel writer Selene Nelson contacted Sitwell on 23 October with a pitch for a series on vegan cooking. Waitrose has recently expanded its range of vegan and vegetarian products.

Sitwell’s reply the same day, first reported by Buzzfeed News, read: “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?”

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. It is published by John Brown Media.

In a statement announcing Sitwell’s resignation, Waitrose said it had been informed by John Brown Media that he was “stepping down as editor of Waitrose and Partners Food magazine with immediate effect”.   

It added: “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.”

In an Instagram post about his resignation, Sitwell wrote: “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.

“Second, a word about my team on Waitrose and Partners Food. For two amazing decades I’ve worked with simply the best crew in the business. ”

He added that he was “proud” of the January 2017 issue of Waitrose Food, pictured beside his statement, which had the headline “Eat Veg” on its front cover.

Picture: William Sitwell/Instagram

John Brown Media chief executive Andrew Hirsch said: “I respect William’s decision and have therefore accepted his resignation. 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 and Partners to appoint a new editor.”

Speaking to Buzzfeed News, vegan journalist Nelson said: “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.”

On top of his former role at Waitrose Food magazine, Sitwell has written about food for major UK publications and appeared as a critic on the BBC series Masterchef UK.

Asked if Sitwell would be invited to reappear on the show following his remarks, a Masterchef spokesperson said: “This is a personal matter for William Sitwell and clearly his ill-judged comments, which he has since apologised for publicly, do not reflect the views held by MasterChef.”

Picture: BBC Masterchef UK/John Brown Media

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