History of Veganism

Ethics can play a big part in the lifestyle and dietary decisions we make, and there are records of ethical arguments against eating animals that date back to Greek times. The Philosopher Pythagoras urged his people to regard animals as kindred souls.

Records of those following a plant-based diet surfaced again in the 1800’s. A Doctor William Lambe was on record as following a vegan diet in 1806, while one of his patients followed suit in 1811. A more recognisable name who was also following the diet, was English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a fact recorded in 1813. Other notable dates in the history of veganism, include the opening of boarding school Alcott House in London, where the pupils were required to follow a ‘100% plant based diet’, and supporters of the school founded one of the first vegetarian societies in 1847.

During this time, anyone that avoided meat along with eggs and other dairy products were known as ‘total vegetarians’.  These total vegetarians included writer and campaigner Henry Salt, whose work ‘A Plea For Vegetarianism’, published in 1886, was known as one of the most influential early works on the subject.

‘Vegan’ is a term that was formed much later, in the 20th century, and coined by Vegan Society founder Donald Watson in 1944. It describes well, the vegan lifestyle and diet, and swiftly became part of our language. This isn’t where the vegan story began however, as there have been much earlier reports of people adopting what we now recognise as a vegan diet, abstaining from all animal based products/by-products.

If you were to draw a timeline for veganism, containing other notable dates, you might also come across the publishing of the first known vegan cookbook called ‘No Animal Food’ in 1910, and the formation of the first vegan society in America, in 1948.

With ethics, health, religion, and animal welfare concerns, being just some of the reasons why people have adopted or supported a vegan lifestyle over the years, debate and published papers continue to be recorded in history. The overall numbers of vegans may account for a small number of the population, but these numbers are still growing, and will ensure that the vegan lifestyle lives on way into the future.

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