YouTube is a real rabbit warren. Spend enough time staring at endless streams of nonsense and eventually, you will stumble upon some seriously weird stuff. One minute you can be happily whiling away the hours with your favourite vlogger, the next you may have taken an unintended algorithmic step into a world where politicians are lizards. The internet was made to help you accidentally unearth the unorthodox.
Many of the most contentious internet theories focus on divisive subjects. However, if you spend enough time online, you can find unconventional ideas on every topic under the sun, with eccentric personalities intently discussing everything from fashion to food. For food in particular, this content can get really strange really quickly. This has been highlighted in recent weeks by the actions of one particularly passionate internet star, who has a disdain for vegans and a real taste for raw squirrel.
Last week, an alarming video began to circulate from VegFest2019, held in Brighton, UK. The clip showed a pony-tailed, bearded protester holding what appeared to be a severed pig’s head in his hands. The man then proceeded to eat the head. Raw. The video is both hypnotic and incredibly disgusting. Like watching live brain surgery.
For a while, it looked as though the strange stunt was a flash in the pan. Both vegans and meat eaters took to the internet to voice their horror over what they had witnessed. Event organisers said that the act had managed to “upset kids and adults”. Nobody could figure out who the flesh-hungry Lord of the Rings lookalike actually was. Everyone assumed that it was a one-off. But then the mysterious man turned up in London's Soho, and things got even more surreal.
Last weekend, at the Vegan Market on Rupert Street, the man took things one step further, arriving at the plant-based event clad in a sleeveless top, emblazoned with the phrase “VEGANISM = MALNUTRITION”. Around his neck hung a dead, plucked woodcock. He was also, rather ominously, carrying a squirrel. No prizes for guessing what followed.
This time, the police proceeded to arrest the man, who offered no resistance and stood quietly, trying to extricate bits of fur from between his teeth. Several more videos, shot by baffled onlookers, showed stunned members of the public asking him what could possibly be a good reason for savaging a squirrel carcass. One shouted, “Why are you doing this? I eat meat, but I don’t do this.” Everyone was just as confused as those who’d been in Brighton. Then the world discovered the man’s YouTube channel, and things started to make sense.
It turns out that the squirrel sushi fan was none other than “Sv3rige aka Goatis” a vlogger and outlandish nutrition theorist, who runs a channel focused exclusively on the promotion of “Primal/Raw Paleo” eating. The diet advocates the consumption of unprocessed foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, alongside uncooked proteins like steak and liver. It is an unorthodox approach to dieting but one that has thousands of fans around the world. Sv3rige himself has 66,000 subscribers at the time of writing.
What is slightly more left-field is Sv3rige’s uncompromising attitude towards anyone who sees the value in not eating animals. In most videos, the vlogger can be seen wearing some variant of a “Go Vegan And Die” T-shirt. In case anyone was unsure exactly where he stands on the issue, Sv3rige regularly describes vegans as “mentally deficient”, suggesting that they are “anti-human scum” in one particularly colourful outburst. It’s this rhetoric that has helped lead Sv3rige to the inevitable conclusion that he must eat a raw pig’s head in Brighton and a squirrel in Soho.
Prior to his arrest in central London, Sv3rige gave an interview to The Metro, providing some insight into his mindset. Rather than viewing his actions as extreme and intimidating, Sv3rige made it clear that he sees it as his mission to help “malnourished vegans”. He went on to add that he and his group “try to talk to with (sic) the vegans and explain to them that there are over 15 nutrients that they can’t get from plants.” Though the idea of sitting down for a chat sounds good on paper, one can’t help but wonder how hard the group were actually trying - given that the next step involved eating arboreal, hairy sashimi in public.
We know that the internet echo chamber can sometimes have a radical effect. Mostly, we hear about this through tragedy. However, as the recent raw meat videos prove, it’s worth remembering that it doesn’t have to be an issue as inflammatory as politics or nationalism to prompt people to do inexplicable things. Sv3rige may well have some very sensible points about diet and the drawbacks associated with only eating plants. But calling somebody else a religious fanatic just before you go and eat a pig’s head feels a little hypocritical. It just goes to show that sometimes what we find on YouTube should, just like Sv3rige’s dinner, probably be taken with a pinch of salt.