Shaun Britton Takes A Look At The Stakes Involved When We Go Vegan.
From the humble beginnings of a joinery teacher, to a global industry and ethical zeitgeist - whether regarded as fringe or future, the term ‘Vegan’ occupies a firm place in the public consciousness. But how did it get here, and where is it headed?
From Small Beginnings
The concept of rejecting animal foods for health, environmental or animal rights reasons can be followed back through human history - whether figures in antiquity, ancient religions or cultural reforms. The Age of Enlightenment ushered a wide acceptance of vegetarian ideals and practices, and as the meat and dairy industries began to grow with the industrial revolution, so did its detractors. In 1813, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote ‘A Vindication Of The Natural Diet’, championing a plant based diet from both a health and moral standpoint. Leo Tolstoy also famously stated in his book ‘What I Believe’ “As long as there are slaughter houses there will always be battlefields” .
The International Vegetarian Union was founded in 1908, and vegetarianism grew in popularity. From here, one can follow the events that led to the term ‘Vegan’ being coined by Donald Watson in 1944, the joinery teacher who originally founded The Vegan Society. The term is designed to mean the following of Vegetarian to its natural conclusion - by using the start and end of the word to signify the rejection of all animal foods and products, arguing that dairy or eggs is no lesser an ethical divot than meat. Watson explained “We can see quite plainly that our present civilisation is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals' bodies”.
If this article has been of interest to you, you may enjoy reading The Move Away From Meat.