The history of veganism

Just a couple or three years ago, few people knew what was different between a vegan and a vegetarian. Now veganism has become one of the most popular movements in the world, whose supporters are becoming more and more. However, an ethical way of life, including strictly vegetable food without any animal products – not a new trend. Veganism has a rather extensive history.

The origins of veganism

In the early 40s of last century, a public figure from England, Donald Watson, being a devotee of plant nutrition, learned all the details of making dairy products, and then excluded them completely. And in 1944, together with a few friends, the British man founded the first on the planet “Vegan Society”, the purpose of which was to educate people, talk about the benefits of food without animal products, its ethics and importance to nature. It was then, in November, that Walson introduced the term “vegan”, formed from the first three and last two letters of English vegetarian. According to the definition of the Vegan Society, “Veganism is a way of life that seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for the sake of food, clothing or any other reason, as far as possible and practicable. It is still relevant today.

It is the anniversary of the establishment of society, 1 November, which is celebrated as International Vegan Day (since 1994).

Donald Watson died at the age of 95, more than 60 of whom were vegan. His work was continued by descendants and followers.

Having united supporters of an ethical way of life in Great Britain, veganism in second half of XX century has extended, first of all, in the Western Europe and the North America. After the movement, other countries began to join the movement.


In 1998 and 2005 in structure of the “Vegan society” based by Donald Watson, there were about 4 thousand persons. At the moment, the number of vegans ranges from 0.2% to 0.5% of the total population of all developed countries in the world.

A noticeable round of veganism development occurred at the beginning of the XXI century, when in 2005 the documentary film “Earthlings” was released. In addition to Sean Monson, producer Maggie Q and the camera crew, it was also directed by Joaquin Phoenix, who read the background text, and musician Moby, who became the author of the soundtrack to the film. The film is a series of intertwined parts, each of which reveals the hard truth about the exploitation of animals in our time. The shots of the film are so straightforward and horrifying that a significant part of the audience, moving away from the first shock after watching it, deliberately switched to veganism or seriously thought about it.


Peter Singer, a vegan, philosopher, animal defender, author of the bestseller Animal Liberation:

– If everyone in the world could only watch one movie, I would choose Earthling.

In “offline”, the revival of interest in veganism was also influenced by the subculture of Straight Edge. The movement is based on the idea of self-control and purity in all aspects of human life. Straightagers advocate for conscious nutrition, completely eliminate cigarettes, alcohol and any other drugs, and promote sports, including extreme sports. In some cases, subculture activists also follow the principles of veganism, as the movement is based on the absence of any discrimination, including against animals.


Tom York, vegan, musician, Radiohead leader:

– When I ate meat, I was sick. At first, like many others, I thought that my body would not get the necessary substances, that I would be sick. In fact, it was the other way around: I got better, I stopped throwing up. It was easy for me to give up meat from the start, and I never regretted it.

Veganism today

Veganism today is not a modest group of like-minded people, but a mass movement. Its mentioning is in the top of the world news. Thus, at the state level, countries (Great Britain, Australia, the United States, Sweden, Israel, and not only) recognize the benefits of the vegan “diet” for health, as well as for the environment. A new UN report calls for veganism, stressing that a shift to a plant-based diet will help combat climate change.

This year, the world s first vegan recruitment agency was launched in London, and the world s first vegan exchange fund opened on the New York Stock Exchange. In addition, the first ever vegan rugby team has emerged, and more and more athletes are proving that veganism and sport are perfectly compatible. Alpinist Dean Maher made his first fully vegan climb to Everest. Celebrities create ethical cosmetic brands and refuse to wear wool, leather and fur. Foie gras farms and dog meat markets are being closed. More and more fashionable designers are switching to developing ethical collections, producing cars with vegan interiors, etc.

Even medicine is already moving towards veganism. Recently 12 thousand American doctors spoke against cow s milk. They stressed that this product does not improve the condition of bones, and it is possible to get all the necessary calcium from plant materials.

Vegan cafes and shops are everywhere. The largest chains of fast food restaurants offer vegetable analogues of their dishes, finding a vegan burger is no longer a problem. The popularity of veganism is evidenced by the development of vegan “meat from a test-tube” by the American company Beyond Meat, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and former head of McDonald s Don Thompson. It is already possible to try the delicacy in some institutions and in Russia. In addition to Beyond Meat, they are also working in Silicon Valley, developing the Impossible Food project, and in Europe (Vegetarian Butcher).

Today, being a vegan is easy and accessible to everyone.

The basic principles of modern veganism

Not tofu alone. Strict plant nutrition is only one aspect of veganism. Because veganism is not a diet, but an ethical way of life. Its followers adhere to the following “rules”:

– Animals are not material

It is obvious that, having refused to eat meat, but continuing to buy things made of animal body parts, man unwittingly supports the industry he hated, based on the suffering of our smaller brothers. Therefore, vegans do not buy things made of fur, leather, wool, down, silk, etc. Many complain that it is difficult to find good clothes and especially shoes that will last a long time and will be made of ethical materials. But the world reacts to changes in tastes of consumers quite quickly: many well-known clothing manufacturers refuse to use natural fur and leather, there are more and more local brands, which are based on ethical production.

– Animals are not raw materials for experimentation

Vivisection – testing of cosmetic and medicinal products on animals has long been proven to be not only cruel, but also mostly useless. There is a lot of research confirming that the human body s reaction to this or that substance is much easier to predict with the help of laboratory tests, which use innovative technologies. And no animal suffers! Fortunately, the market for ethical brands, including Russian ones, is growing and developing rapidly.

– Animals are not entertainment

Visiting circuses, dolphinariums, zoos, especially contact ones, is unacceptable for a vegan, as these “entertainment” in one way or another imply the exploitation of animals. At best, they are deprived of their freedom, which is cruelty at best, and at worst they are tortured in order to become obedient slaves who will amuse the public and perform tricks and behave in ways that are not inherent to them. Horse racing, elephant riding, or camel riding? All this is not about veganism. Animals are not a means of transportation or a tourist attraction. Some countries already understand this. In particular, Cambodia s most famous tourist attraction, the Angkor Wat Temple Complex, said it will refuse to travel on elephants by 2020.


Moby, vegan, musician, nature and animal rights advocate:

– Over time, my veganism has been underpinned by knowledge about health, climate change and the environment. I have learned that eating meat, dairy products and eggs has a major impact on diabetes, heart disease and cancer. I learned that commercial livestock is responsible for 18% of climate change (more than all cars, buses, trucks, ships and planes combined). I learned that the production of 1 pound of soybeans requires 200 gallons of water, and the production of 1 pound of beef requires 1800 gallons. I learned that the main reason for the destruction of tropical forests was to cut down for grazing. I also learned that most zoonoses (SARS, rabies cow disease, avian influenza, etc.) are the result of animal husbandry. And as a decisive argument, I learned that animal-based nutrition, rich in fats, can be the main cause of impotence (as if I didn t need any more reasons to become a vegan).

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