Vegans Aren’t That Vindictive

Slate's Culture Blog
July 3 2013 3:43 PM

Vegans Aren’t That Vindictive

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These PETA activists will have their revenge if you turn your back on them

Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images

A new week, a new reason to blame the New York Post for perpetuating misinformation. This time, Gotham’s most hysterical tabloid is responsible for taking at face value a website that is almost certainly a joke.

L.V. Anderson L.V. Anderson

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

Granted, it is a very well-executed, very deadpan joke. The Vegan Sellout List purports to be a hall of shame for ex-vegans, “an online directory of those who have regressed from moral consistency to moral depravity.” The site’s mission statement reads, “Selling out veganism is a trend on the upswing, bringing with it swarms of haughty, nose-turning carnists uttering nonsensical buzzwords re: veganism being ‘privileged’, or ‘trendy’, critiquing themselves into ethical degeneracy and paleo-terrorism.”

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“Paleo-terrorism,” a term that does not turn up any definitions or search results beyond blog posts and articles about the Vegan Sellout List, is your first clue that the site might be a clever bit of satire. There’s also the suggestion that readers kill themselves if a video about factory farming “fails to stir your conscience,” and the self-serious reminder not to list any person who:

  • Was never vegan
  • Pretended to be vegan
  • “Was vegan for 3 days then sold out.”
  • SOMEONE WHO IS STILL VEGAN.

And then there are the listings themselves, which are uniformly hilarious. An entry for an Austin man reads as follows:

Tall, red hair, built like a truck. Used to be vegan, but since his girlfriend broke up with him he now mostly walks around downtown ATX eating turkey legs and weeping openly. 

Then there’s the New York woman with this biography:

Born vegan, parents phased out the diet at age 11, returned to veganism in high school. Stopped being vegan in her late 20s “on doctors orders.” Nuremberg trials for doctors anyone?

The idea that any individual could be so tone-deaf, melodramatic, vindictive, and short-sighted—and at the same time have such an exquisite sense of comic timing—raises red flags. And yet the Post isn’t the only publication to report on the Vegan Sellout List earnestly; the New York Observer, Eater, and (predictably) the Daily Mail have also jumped on the bandwagon. (I must credit Andrew Simmons at L.A Weekly, where I first read about the Vegan Sellout List, for acknowledging the site’s absurdity.) Granted, the Vegan Sellout List does contain entries for real people, like Brooklyn butcher Berlin Reed—but their entries are so over-the-top that it’s impossible to take them seriously. (Reed’s reads, “And here we have yet another person hiding behind anarchism to justify their selfish behavior. When are we going to stop letting anarchists walk the streets freely?”)

As an ex-vegan myself and a person with vegan friends and co-workers, I generally find jokes about vegans’ ostensibly fascist and oppressive attitudes tired and unfair. But I must tip my hat to whoever dreamed up the Vegan Sellout List, both for deftly skewering vegan stereotypes and for pranking a general public whose eagerness to believe the worst about vegans overrides their natural skepticism. 

I’ve contacted the creators of the Vegan Sellout List via the “Send Hate Mail” feature of the website, and I’ll update this post if I hear back from them. If I’m wrong, and the Vegan Sellout List isn’t a joke, I’ll happily submit myself for an entry.

Update, July 5, 2013: I'm eating crow (or soy-based crow substitute): Ex-vegan writer Rhys Southan reports that the Vegan Sellout List is hosted by the same account as two sites created by radical animal rights activist Peter Young. Southan emailed Young to ask whether Young created the Vegan Sellout List on Wednesday; the site now redirects to a PETA video about factory farming.

Update, July 9, 2013: Never mind! Peter Young did play a role in the creation of the site, but Southan and I misinterpreted his intention. Young has posted a very long explanation of the stunt on his site Animal Liberation Frontline: His intention was to bait the mainstream media into directing traffic to the aforementioned PETA video with "fake & controversial news," i.e., the Vegan Sellout List. Young seems very pleased with his efforts: "It is vindicated by the results it achieved" (directing hundreds of thousands of people to the PETA video), he writes, adding, "You either get it or you don't." I'm relieved that my initial instinct about the site was correct, but I'm a little baffled by Young's triumphant swagger. Surely a sizable portion of the people whom Young rickrolled simply hit "Close tab" before they could be converted to a cruelty-free lifestyle.

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