Two hundred and eighteen

A Brief History of Veganism

The term “vegan” was created by a British woodworker, Donald Watson, in November 1944.  After concerns from some of the members of the Leicester Vegetarian Society that vegetarians were still eating dairy, Watson and a group of others met to discuss the creation of a separate organization of non-dairy vegetarians.  This meeting became the British Vegan Society, coining the term “vegan” – the first and the last two letters of vegetarian. (Click here for an interview with Donald Watson on Vegetarians in Paradise)

Eating a plant-based diet, however, has been around long before the 1940s.  “Kerry S. Walters and Lisa Portmess write that the first ethical argument against eating animals can be traced to the Greek philosopher Pythagorus (c. 570–490 BCE). A believer in the transmigration of souls, Pythagoras warned that eating an animal might involve eating a human soul; therefore, he argued, human beings ought to regard all living beings as kindred souls.[8]” (Wikipedia)

“The concept of flesh-avoidance can be traced back to ancient Indian and eastern Mediterranean societies… Followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism also advocated vegetarianism, believing that humans should not inflict pain on other animals.” ( – A History of Veganism by Claire Suddath)

The first western vegetarian society was formed in England in 1847, with the American Vegetarian Society being created three years later.  The first known strict vegetarian/vegan cookbook, No Animal Food by Rupert H. Wheldon, was published in England in 1910.

The vegan movement has been growing since.  A 2008 study by The Vegetarian Times entitled “Vegetarianism in America” , estimates that “3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. Approximately 0.5 percent, or 1 million, of those are vegans, who consume no animal products at all. In addition, 10 percent of U.S., adults, or 22.8 million people, say they largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet.”