Today, there are vegan groups and charities of various sizes, in countries, towns, cities, and university campuses across the world. An American Vegan Society was formed in 1948, but they weren’t ahead of the game, this honour goes to Britain. The world’s first vegan society was founded in 1944 by Donald Watson, a northerner, who also coined the universally used term ‘vegan’, a name formed from the letters at the start and end of the word vegetarian. Vegan seems like an apt word for a lifestyle that took on vegetarian ideals, and added to a diet which also excluded dairy products.
The Vegan Society had humble beginnings, formed by Watson after a meeting with a group of like-minded friends. At one point, Watson was in effect running the society singlehanded, and even had to limit member numbers to 500, due to the immense task, compiling and stapling together his newsletter. The Vegan Society of today has a much larger membership and has helped many thousands of its members. Their members, much like those in the early days of the society, join for advice and support, as they take up and seek to maintain a vegan lifestyle. It also provides information and advice on sourcing vegan products, and seeks to raise awareness among the media, health and education sectors, and the government.
The Vegan Society in the UK is a registered charity and an Ltd company, with a national staff, a board of trustees and local volunteer groups. On any given day they may be promoting the work of the society through The Vegan Magazine, selling their own publications, and other products such as vegan cookery books, and providing lots of factual information and news via their website. All of their work is to promote and encourage the vegan lifestyle, what they describe as “a way of living that seeks to exclude, where possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of animals, for food, clothing, or any other purpose.”