Donald Watson

Picture: The Vegan Society

In November 1944, Donald Watson called a meeting with five like-minded people to discuss non-dairy vegetarian diets and lifestyles. This meeting led to the birth of a new movement and founding of The Vegan Society. Donald coined the term 'vegan', taken from the first three and last two letters of 'vegetarian'. In his words it marked “the beginning and end of vegetarian”.

As a child, Donald witnessed the slaughter and butchery of pigs on his uncle's farm, which would affect him deeply. He became a vegetarian at the age of 14 and came to view abstention from all animal products as the natural extension of this philosophy. 

Donald passed away in 2005 at the age of 95. In an interview conducted 3 years earlier, George Rodger of The Vegan Society asked whether he had any message for the many thousands of people who are now vegan.

"Yes. I would like them to take the broad view of what veganism stands for. Something beyond finding a new alternative to, shall we say scrambled eggs on toast, or a new recipe for a Christmas cake. I would like them to realise that they're on to something really big, something that hadn't been tried until sixty years ago, and something which is meeting every reasonable criticism that anyone can level against it.

"I doubt if anyone really knows how our digestion works. They might think they know, but the whole thing is so wonderful, that food can be converted into flesh and blood, bone and hair, as well as energy, mental processes, and even into spiritual enlightenment, that science has hardly got round to accepting as a possibility. We don't know the spiritual advancements that long term veganism – I mean not over years or even decades, but over generations, would have on human life. It would be certainly a different civilisation, and the first one in the whole of our history that would truly deserve the title of being a civilisation."

[Excerpts from 'Interview with Donald Watson on Sunday 15 December 2002', courtesy of The Vegan Society]