Interview with Donald Watson, the Creator of Vegan
Meet Donald Watson, the man who coined the word "vegan" nearly 70 years ago in England.
From the telephone and internet to faux meats and non-dairy ice cream, there are some inventions that leave you thinking, "How in the world did they come up with that?" Whether you've been vegan for years or are just toying with the idea, the word "vegan" can stir up many reactions. And it's hard to believe that one man started it all.
Donald Watson, the founder of England's Vegan Society as well as the man who coined the word, "vegan," was born September 2, 1910. As this year would mark the 99th birthday of the vegan visionary, we'd like to look back to 1995, when VN publisher Joe Connelly interviewed the whip-smart, perceptive, and wildly humorous Watson at his home in the UK.
VegNews: How old were you when you became a vegetarian?
Donald Watson: At 14, I made a New Year's resolution not to eat meat or fish again. I didn't know another vegetarian in the town where I lived. And then in no time at all, my brother and sister became vegetarians. I seemed to be alright. We were not smokers and teetotalers—all three of us.
VN: You and your late wife, Dorothy, came up with the term "vegan." Tell me a little bit about what the thought process was.
DW: I think it was a... I won't say a brain wave, because that's crediting myself.
VN: Well, you deserve the credit.
DW: Well, I don't know that I do. I think it was one of those wisps of inspiration that comes [out of] thin air (chuckles) that just happened to hit me. (laughs) I thought, well "VEE-gan," now that is a strong word. I had to tell them how to pronounce it.
VN: Since the word vegetarian is pronounced with a soft "g," why is it not pronounced "vej-AN"?
DW: Because my inspiration said "No!" It was to be "VEE-gan." (laughs again) The emphasis on the first syllable. It caught on and the only criticism I ever had was from a very prominent chap in the vegetarian movement, Jon Wynne-Tyson. He didn't like the word vegan. [He said] it sounded like inhabitants from another planet.
VN: You were vegetarian for 20 years, then you decided to go vegan in the early 1940s. What made you go vegan?
DW: All our theories told us [that animal products] were obviously produced by cruelty. I knew how cow's milk arrived at the doorstep. And where eggs came from. The argument of vegetarians, of course, was that in order to get the steak you had to kill an animal. Good logic. Same with fish. In order to get an egg or a glass of milk you hadn't to kill an animal. True. For one egg or one glass of milk. [But] if you produce those dairy products on a massive scale so that most people eat them every day of their life, and in the case of milk, virtually every meal, then the theory isn't true that you don't have to kill an animal. You do have to kill animals.
3 Rules for Stellar Homemade Vegan Cheese
Vegan cheesemaking pro Miyoko Schinner shares essential tips for making life-changing vegan cheeses.
Read More »
A Day in the Life of A Vegan Food Truck Entrepreneur
Hit the road with vegan culinary king Adam Sobel, as he spends the day serving New Yorks masses from his award-winning Cinnamon Snail food truck.
Read More »
How to Host a Summery Vegan Cocktail Party on the Cheap
Don't let limited funds get in the way of your urge to throw a swanky soirée—just think thrifty with these tips.
Read More »
10 Essentials for the Ultimate Fourth of July
Celebrate our stars and stripes in style with these must-haves for a killer Independence Day.
Read More »
7 Must-Have Vegan Summer Beauty Essentials
We fill you in on everything you need to protect your skin, plus three one-ingredient beauty recipes.
Read More »
- Vegan Father's Day
- 25 Ways to Relax, Vegan-Style
- Vegan Bakery Cinnaholic Wins Big on Shark Tank
- 9 Vegan Foods For Healthy, Beautiful Skin
- Zombie-Free French Toast
- Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi Adopt Esther the Wonder Pig
- A Day in the Life: Vedge Chef Rich Landau
- Colleen Holland: My Top 10 Favorite Vegan Beauty Brands
- Vegan St. Patricks Day 101
- Colleen Holland's 15 Most-Anticipated Vegan Cookbooks of 2014
- It's Never Too Late to Go Vegan
- Your Valentine on Veganism: An Infographic
- How to Date a Vegan
- 8 Delicious Vegan Aphrodisiacs
- The Vegan Guide to Chinese New Year
- Colleen Holland's Top 10 Favorite Vegan Foods in 2014
- VegNews Exclusive: Q&A with The Cooking Channels Jason Wrobel
- 31 Changes in 31 Days
- VegNews Vegan Starter Kit
- Colleen Holland: How I Became a Healthy Vegan