Last night, Channel 4 posted a message on Instagram in which it referred to the 165,000 people taking part in Veganuary as ‘asswipes’. It has since removed the offensive post.
Channel 4 is owned by taxpayers, many of whom are vegan. The company’s mission statement is laudable:
championing unheard voices, taking bold creative risks, inspiring change and standing up for diversity.
But engaging in hate speech isn’t bold, isn’t creative, and is very risky. It’s also against the law.
Instead of attacking vegans, Channel 4 should be championing the minority of people who choose to live in a way that doesn’t cause unnecessary animal suffering. It should be inspiring change by encouraging people to consider the impact of what they eat on animals, the environment and their own health. And it should be standing up for diversity, not attacking it.
People go vegan for many reasons. Many do so to improve their health – and with vegans having a lower risk of heart disease and some cancers, and a healthier BMI during an obesity-driven public health crisis, that seems fair enough.
Others go vegan because they don’t want to be part of an industry that kills millions of day-old chickens because they were born the wrong gender, or forcibly makes cows pregnant only to take their babies away so we can have their milk.
And some don’t like contributing to the environmental damage caused by animal agriculture – the leading cause of deforestation and a bigger contributor to climate change than the entire transport sector.
It’s up to an individual to decide whether going vegan is for them or not. But to attack someone for their sincerely held beliefs that we shouldn’t harm animals or damage our environment is not only odd, it’s against the law. The Equality Act 2010 specifically protects those with such sincerely held beliefs. They have the same level of legal protection as afforded to different ethnic groups, those of different religions, and those of different genders or sexualities.
Vegans have a sense of humour. We have some of the best memes you’ll find on the internet. But this isn’t a joke.
After Channel 4 published their anti-vegan message, many of the 500,000+ UK vegans responded. Hundreds of people messaged Channel 4 and commented on the post. They stood up for their rights, and stood against discrimination. The company later deleted its post, but at the time of writing, Veganuary, the UK-based charity, has received no apology.
Many Veganuary supporters continue to demand an apology in posts on Instagram, querying why Channel 4 feel it’s acceptable to mock vegans who are often motivated by compassion for animals and a desire to protect the environment:
We are calling on Channel 4 to apologise to the vegan community, acknowledge the harm such comments cause, and update its editorial guidelines to ensure this never happens again.
We’re also calling on the UK government and legal system to crack down on anti-vegan hate speech, by protecting vegans to the extent the law requires.
Only then can those of us that choose to be vegan enjoy our veggie burgers in peace.
If you are unhappy with any aspect of Channel 4, you can make a complaint via their contact us webform, call them on 0345 076 0191 or write via Channel 4 Enquiries, PO Box 1058, Belfast, BT1 9DU.
Followers described Channel 4’s post as ‘not acceptable’, stating they felt ‘disgusted’ and calling them out on being ‘ignorant’ and ‘discriminating against vegans’.
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