Remembering Donald Watson, the Father of Veganism
VN commemorates the 100th birthday of the father of veganism.
September 2 would have marked the 100th birthday of the “father of veganism,” Donald Watson, who passed away at the age of 95. While Watson wasn’t the first to prescribe a wholly plant-based diet, it was he, along with his wife Dorothy, who coined the word “vegan” in 1944. He founded the Vegan Society, the world’s first organization of its kind, signaling the start of a movement for compassionate, cruelty-free living. In honor of Watson’s birthday, VN presents a portion of Publisher Joseph Connelly’s 2005 interview with the man who gave the vegan movement its moniker.
VegNews: You were vegetarian for almost 20 years before going vegan. What made you go vegan?
Donald Watson: All our theories told us [that animal products] were obviously produced by cruelty. I knew how milk arrived at the doorstep. And where eggs came from. The argument of vegetarians, of course, was that in order to get steak you had to kill an animal. In order to get an egg or a glass of milk you hadn’t to kill an animal. But if you produce those dairy products on a massive scale, then the theory isn’t true that you don’t have to kill an animal.
VN: What does veganism mean, from the person who defined it?
DW: Well it certainly started as a milk issue. That was a great issue, even more than eggs. We had to solve the milk problem. And then it soon took over to include the whole diet—then, of course later, all the animal products that people use. The biggest industry in the world is animal exploitation, which is the one thing that veganism is opposing. Not just farming, but everything else—medicines, vivisection, everything that comes from animals. I think man is biologically not a carnivore or a parasite. I’m thinking particularly of milk drinking. We’ve got more than 500 different mammals throughout the world and man is the only one who takes milk throughout life. It’s only man who is capable of [this kind of exploitation].
VN: Taking veganism beyond diet, tell me your thoughts about wearing fur or hunting and fishing.
DW: Well veganism covers, it leads, the whole of the animal-welfare movement. There is a difference, obviously, between a laboratory animal that’s just being torn to pieces and someone giving little children a donkey ride. They’re so different and yet they’re both animal exploitation in a way, aren’t they? But I, as a propagandist, wouldn’t [protest] the donkey giving the little child a ride because the opponent would think you were just around the bend, so I just keep off that and go for the strong points.
VN: How would you like to be remembered?
DW: I thought, “When Joseph comes into the room this morning, I’ll say to him, ‘Look, I’m not obese. I don’t have bags under my eyes. I still got hair.’” And I thought, “No, that’s boasting, isn’t it?” Fate has a cruel way of dealing with boasters. You know, when the Vegan Society started, the population of the world was around two billion. It now exceeds [in 2005] six billion. Alongside this explosion is the second man-made explosion of purposely-bred animals to feed him. Some people throughout the ages have grasped these messages haven’t they? And it’s one of the mysteries of genetics how [a] few of us in the 20th century, born in orthodox settings with no one to influence us, managed to arrive at the same conclusion, or to see the same messages, that some of the ancient Greeks did. The theory is if we live on pure foods and pure thoughts and all the right ideas we become more receptive. And [most] people, the great mass of people, they’re just living. Now they’re not going to be spoken of in 2,000 years like the old Greeks. They’re just going to live and die.
Gallup Poll: Americans Support Animal Rights
Almost one-third of respondents say animals should have same rights as humans.
Read More »
New Restaurant Shows Possibilities of Lab-Grown Meat
A virtual restaurant serves up innovative menu of futuristic meat.
Read More »
Jamie Oliver Urges Fans to Eat More Vegetarian Food
Citing health and financial reasons, the celebrity chef encourages fans to incorporate more plant-based meals into their diets.
Read More »
Santa Barbara Art Event Benefits Animal Museum
Vegan surrealist garden party celebrates life of artist Frida Kahlo on May 30.
Read More »
New Pamela Anderson Vegan Ad Campaign to Debut on Ellen
Tomorrow, Ellen DeGeneres will unveil a PETA ad campaign linking animal agriculture to the drought.
Read More »
- Moby to California Governor: Restrict Water to Agribusiness
- Top Chef TV Host Eats Plant-Based During Off-Season
- Renowned Heart Doctor Opens Vegan Restaurant in Detroit
- Animal Sanctuary Takes Over Vegan Store
- This Summer: Vegan Film Coming to a Theater Near You
- Upscale Vegan Eatery to Open in New York City
- LA Vegan Beer & Food Festival Hits Pasadena This Weekend
- Sales of Meatless Meats on the Rise
- Vegan Pop-Up Shops Hit New York City
- Vegan Athletes Compete in Naturally Fit Games
- CBS TV Station Takes 30-Day Vegan Challenge
- Toll-Free Animal Activist Helpline Launched
- 150,000 Americans Sign Petition for New Dietary Guidelines
- Hawaii Could Be First State to Outlaw Wild Animal Acts
- Wendys Test-Markets New Vegan Burger
- Whole Foods to Launch Affordable Grocery Chain
- New Website Stands Up Against Ag-Gag Bills
- Celebrity-Studded Benefit Gala for Animals in LA
- Jared Leto Buffs Up on Vegan Diet for Batman Film
- Madison Square Garden Goes Vegan for Morrissey Show