A well-known Italian chef and television presenter has described vegans as a “sect”, declaring “I would kill them all.”
The comments by Gianfranco Vissani were made on an Italian television programme.
The high-profile chef, who often appears on television in Italy and has written numerous books, said: “Vegans? They’re like the members of a sect. They’re like Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’d kill them all.”
He was told to “stop saying stupid things” by another chef who appeared on the show on the La7 network.
There was a swift reaction to the remarks on social media, even though they seemed to be made largely in jest. “Vissani has been possessed by mad cow disease! Put him into isolation!” said one woman on Twitter.
“We can discuss whether or not they should be killed, but on the fact that they have become a sect, there’s no doubt, it seems to me,” another Twitter user wrote. A third wrote: “Even famous cooks make stupid jokes.”
In Italy, there have been several recent cases of parents who put their children on vegan diets being investigated for abuse and maltreatment.
Last month, a 14-month-old baby boy was taken to hospital in Milanbecause he was chronically underweight, having been fed only vegan food. Hospital staff reported the case to social services.
Last year, the vegan parents of an 11-month-old baby were put under investigation after their son was rushed to hospital suffering severe malnutrition.
Doctors said the baby showed signs of deficiency in vitamin B12, which is found in foods including fish, meat, eggs and milk.
Mr Vissani is by no means the first celebrity chef to be rude about vegans and vegetarians.
Anthony Bourdain, the American chef who wrote Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour before forging a career as a TV celebrity, wrote in one of his books:
“Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn.
“To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.
“Oh, I’ll accommodate them, I’ll rummage around for something to feed them, for a ‘vegetarian plate’, if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.”