Great British Bake Off's first vegan contestant faces online backlash – for riding horses

Freya Cox

The Great British Bake Off’s first vegan contestant has been forced off Facebook after being called a hypocrite for riding horses.

Freya Cox, 19, was targeted by social media users who criticised her for taking part in what they deem to be a cruel sport.

The psychology student, who is also a champion in the equine discipline of dressage, was officially announced as one of the Channel 4 show’s contestants this week.

Excitedly announcing the news online, Ms Cox said she was “passionate about ethics” and, as a vegan, would not be using any animal products in the dishes she made during the competition.

However, not long after being announced as a contestant, she was forced to delete her Facebook page, which documented her sporting achievements and featured pictures of her riding her horse, Winnie, after receiving a torrent of abuse.

One social media user wrote: “I think a lot of us would like to know if you give Winnie the necessary exercise without you breaking her spine any more or whether you continue to do so?”

Some vegans believe horse riding is cruel because the animals are not given a choice to take part, and it may sometimes cause them pain or discomfort.

But it is also widely acknowledged within the vegan community that being vegan does not have strict boundaries and can be expressed differently by different people.

Freya Cox

Another person shared a picture of the Freya Cox Eventing facebook page and wrote: “Please tell me this isn’t you.”

One person said: “The problem people like myself are having is that, yes, it’s great that someone is going onto a mainstream programme promoting vegan food. But please don’t say that you are passionate about ethics when you still ride horses. Saying that you’re passionate about ethics and then riding horses is completely contradicting and confusing.”

Ms Cox was also accused of “watering down” the concept of veganism by another social media user, who said: “If you are still riding you shouldn’t be calling yourself vegan and you most definitely shouldn’t be going on TV calling yourself vegan.”

Before the tirade of abusive comments appeared, Ms Cox had happily written online: “The secret is finally out! I can’t believe I’m actually writing a post announcing I am going to be on the Great British Bake Off 2021 baking all vegan bakes.

“I am so passionate about ethics and feel completely blessed to have the opportunity to share this with the world.

“To say I am the first completely vegan baker on GBBO feels like such an honour.

“I will be posting loads of updates, bakes and behind the scenes pics over on my Instagram page if you’d like to follow me on there. Speak to you all soon … the future really is vegan.”

Ms Cox was defended by some of her social media fans, with one person accusing her critics of having a “superiority complex”.

Others said the comments were “shameful and unnecessary”, and they couldn’t wait to see her sail past her competitors in the contest with her vegan bakes.

“Oh to be the perfect vegan, we are all trying,” said one supporter.

Channel 4 has been contacted for comment.

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