OPINION: Let’s hold a Quorn and tofu festival on the Norfolk coast to satisfy those cheeky vegans

PUBLISHED: 11:31 21 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:31 21 May 2020

Claire Davies and Louise Hyde of Davies Fish Shop at last year's Crab and Lobster Festival

Claire Davies and Louise Hyde of Davies Fish Shop at last year's Crab and Lobster Festival


Food fanatic Andy Newman thought it was April Fools Day when he heard a suggestion that a famous Norfolk event should go vegan - so he has a plan of his own

I suppose it’s inevitable that after nine weeks of suspended reality, some people’s sense of perspective is going to get a bit warped.

So whilst the majority of us continue to abide by the rules which are keeping the majority of us safe, there will always be the idiots who think that they are somehow immune from the deadly virus, or that it is all being exaggerated and it’s just “a nasty bout of flu”. The bottom half of the internet is awash with such morons; perhaps they are following Donald Trump’s advice and injecting themselves with bleach.

That element of lockdown paranoia is also evident in sections of the national media, who seem ready to jump on every half-truth and rumour and print it as gospel fact if they think that’s what their readers want to hear.

Regional media, meanwhile, has been an oasis of good sense and responsible reporting in all of this. Survey after survey shows that local newspapers are right up there in terms of trusted sources for news. And it’s easy to see why.

So imagine my surprise 
when I spotted in the EDP last week a story which – I initially thought – could only have been made-up. As I read the report that a vegan organisation had suggested the Cromer and Sheringham Crab and Lobster Festival should return in 2021 as a vegan event, my first reaction was to check that I wasn’t reading a back copy of the paper from April 1.

But no, it would seem that the journalism is sound, and the only wonky thing about this story is the warped thinking behind the original idea.

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The Cromer and Sheringham Crab and Lobster Festival gives us a massive clue in its name what it is all about – and by definition that cannot be vegan. Whilst everybody has the absolute right to decide what they will and will not eat, that right does not extend to dictating to the rest of us what our dietary choices should be.

There is nothing at all stopping the vegan activists from starting their own festival to promote plant-based foods. If they truly want to persuade the 99 per cent of the world who are not vegan (that is the Vegan Society’s own figure) to give up meat, fish and dairy, doing this is probably the most effective way.

Putting out press releases suggesting that a Crab and Lobster Festival should be vegan just invites ridicule – and that invitation has been widely and enthusiastically taken up by Norfolk people. The vegan militants have consequently become a laughing stock. Not quite what they had in mind, I suspect.

Now, I can’t speak for the Crab and Lobster Festival organisers, but they seem like reasonable people, and if they had been approached with the idea of including, say, a stall selling “plant-based seafood” – I assume this means edible seaweed – at their next event, I suspect they might have found an accepting attitude. Certainly more accepting than, for example, someone suggesting opening a steak stall at a vegan food festival.

It would be wrong for carnivores to impose their food preferences on those who choose not to eat meat. And it’s equally wrong for those of a vegan disposition to force their dietary choices on meat-eaters. Trying to do so simply entrenches views and does nothing to win hearts and minds.

This is why the letter sent to the Crab and Lobster Festival organisers tries to make the disingenuous link between eating seafood and coronavirus, a link which is not supported by a single credible scientific source.

But then the more militant vegan organisations seem rather more interested in grabbing headlines than genuinely changing eating habits. This is the reason I am not naming the organisation involved, because in the end this was all a publicity stunt, and I refuse to play ball.

So here’s my suggestion. Why not hold a parallel Quorn and Tofu Festival alongside the Crab and Lobster Festival next year, and let people decide which they would rather visit. I suspect the crustacean-loving event organisers in Cromer and Sheringham will not be quaking in their boots.

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