After more than 30 years of reading The Guardian (except for a period when the weekly Manchester Guardian was read in the US before the age of the Internet made all things possible), the Grumpy Vegan for the last time this morning went to his local newsagents to pick up his daily copy. The decision to end my loyalty and subscription was difficult but inevitable. It is like saying good bye to an insufferable friend.
Regular visitors to this site and the other one know that this has been a love/hate relationship for some time. There’s much to commend the paper for. But there’s so much more to condemn it. In particular, its arrogant and ignorant attitude toward vegan/vegetarian, cruelty-free living and animal rights. These transgressions have been documented frequently here and in the other place. Even recently, the paper dedicated two centre page spreads to photographs of fox hunting. Why not a photo of hunters assaulting sabs? Or one of a dead fox, deer or stag killed by a hunt? For a paper that proudly and smugly declares its liberal, enlightened worldview, it is almost always illiberal and unenlightened in its coverage of animal ethics.
Further to this stupid attitude, I join with many who find the cost of reading the paper, even at its reduced subscription rate, increasingly prohibitive. Of course, I can read it for free online. I used to feel guilty in doing so. Not any more. And when, as it surely will, it puts most of its editorial behind a pay wall, I will most likely not subscribe. But I should not be emphatic in this as, one day, I will probably use an iPad and the paper’s online content will be too tempting to ignore.
The Grumpy Vegan will miss many of the paper’s op ed columnists, including Polly Toynbee, Michael White, Jonathan Freedland, Simon Jenkins, John Harris, Jackie Ashley, John Vidal, Martin Kettle, Timothy Garton Ash and Deborah Orr. Didn’t always agree with them. That didn’t matter. They’re important because they informed and provoked. Two other contributors deserve special mention. The first is Larry Elliott whose writings on business and commerce always sparkled with clarity and insight. No mean achievement given the dryness of the topic. The second is Steve Bell, the brilliant op ed cartoonist (is this the correct word to describe him?) and creator of the legendary If… comic strip. Among the Grumpy Vegan’s treasures are posters and postcards bought from Steve at his stall in the Camden Market in the 1980s.
Such an abundance of talent at the Grauniad is difficult to reconcile given its contemptible attitude toward animal rights. The paper’s championing of difficult and uncomfortable issues, particularly the antics of what was once called Fleet Street, is to be saluted and given a standing ovation.
Yes, I will miss giggling over If…. Yes, I will miss the Easy Crossword. Yes, I will miss spending Saturday mornings catching up with the week’s papers. I will mildly miss the Saturday Review because more often than not it includes something (but not always) of interest. I will miss the Sports pages for the large photos of men in intimate positions in their bodily contact sports. I won’t miss the Saturday colour supplement magazine as its content is consistently boring and predictable. I will miss a sense of community which the paper extraordinarily creates between itself and its readership. Just read the letters to the editor page to see this manifested. I will miss saying ‘Good morning’ to the folks in my local newsagents when I pick up my copy. I will miss the physical experience of handling the newspaper and turning the pages. Of folding it vertically into halves to read its contents. I will miss its design, which is far superior than any other newspaper I’ve read.
Nevertheless, it’s time to sever the link between The Guardian and the Grumpy Vegan.