Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Recent History of Veganism: Part I-- The Vegan Society

Vegetarianism has a long history, stretching back all the way to Ancient Greece, Ancient India, and more. Veganism also has a long history-- in fact, in Jainism, veganism plays an integral role in the practice of compassion and non-violence. However, for most of history, veganism was referred to as "pure vegetarianism", "strict vegetarianism" or "total vegetarianism" (and in some parts of the world, it still is!). Although this pure/strict/total vegetarianism has a rich history of its own, today I want to explore with you the recent history of veganism as we know it today in the Western world, starting with the year the word "vegan" was born.
In this post, I'll be discussing the history of the Vegan Society, which is how the term "veganism" came to be.
The word "vegan" was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, co-founder of the Vegan Society, which is based in the UK. According to Wikipedia,
"In August 1944 two of the Vegetarian Society's members, Donald Watson (1910–2005) and Elsie "Sally" Shrigley (died 1978), suggested forming a subgroup of non-dairy vegetarians. When the executive committee rejected the idea, they and five others met in November that year at the Attic Club in Holborn, London, to discuss setting up a separate organization.
They suggested several terms to replace non-dairy vegetarian, including dairyban, vitan, benevore, sanivore and beaumangeur. Watson decided on vegan.... As he put it in 2004, the word consisted of the first three and last two letters of vegetarian, "the beginning and end of vegetarian." He called the new group the Vegan Society. Its first newsletter... was distributed to 500 people."
To read the FIRST EVER copy of the Vegan Society newsletter from 1944 ("The Vegan News" (Quarterly Magazine of the Non-Dairy Vegetarians)), follow this link: It's really cool to see on page 2, for example, where they discuss what to call themselves:
"We should all consider carefully what our group, and our magazine, and ourselves, shall be called. ... As this first issue of our periodical had to be named, I have used the title "The Vegan News". Should we adopt this, our diet will soon become known as a VEGAN diet, and we should aspire to the ranks of VEGANS. Members' suggestions will be welcomed."
In 1976, The Vegan Society produced a 30 minute program on veganism. It presents shockingly similar knowledge to the modern-day information on veganism and is still highly relevant to veganism today-- watch it to see for yourself!

If you can't watch this video on my blog, you can view it on Youtube instead:

The gardener who was interviewed, Kathleen Jannaway, later left her position as the secretary of the Vegan Society and formed The Movement for Compassionate Living, which focuses on both veganism and sustainable living (the two are closely correlated, of course).

The Vegan Society focuses on a wide variety of tactics, including education, food labelling, and their (still quarterly!) magazine, The Vegan. Check out their website:
The Vegan Society is definitely one of my favourite vegan organizations; it doesn't do offensive things like PETA, and it doesn't scorn personal purity in the vegan diet the way Vegan Outreach does.

Here is a much more recent video from the Vegan Society:

Check back soon for my next post, everyone!

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