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.
9 Vegan Foods For Healthy, Beautiful Skin
These plant-based staples will clear your complexion, fight wrinkles, and protect your skin from burns and dryness.
Read More »
Vegan St. Patricks Day 101
Learn about St. Pattys Day parades, vegan food and drinks, and the man who started it all.
Read More »
The #1 Way to Make Sure You Eat Your Greens First
Find yourself in need of some healthy habits? Its a lot easier to train your brain than you might think!
Read More »
6 Delicious Ways to Get Vitamin C
Vitamin C comes in more forms than just OJ. Here are six mouthwatering ways to get your cold-fighting fill.
Read More »
The Unlikely Health Benefits of Coffee
Coffee has long been perceived as an unhealthy indulgence, but recent research shows that it may contribute to longevity.
Read More »
- 31 Changes in 31 Days
- The Top 15 Vegan Instagram Photos of 2014
- The Top 15 Stories of 2014
- Millennium Named "Restaurant of the Year"
- The Top 15 News Stories of 2014
- The Top 15 Vegan Recipes of 2014
- Earth Balance Named "Company of the Year"
- The 2014 Veggie Awards
- How to Date a Meat-Eater
- Vegan Weddings 2014: Laura Robeson & Danielle Davis
- Budget Vegan: Four Ways to Save Big When Going Veg
- Vegan Weddings 2014: Ashley Moore & Jordan Coates
- Vegan Weddings 2014: Aliya & Michael Weber
- The Glycemic Index for Beginners
- VegNews Exclusive: An Interview with John Joseph
- 3 Cheap Ways to Stock Your Vegan Bar
- 3 Rules for Stellar Homemade Vegan Cheese
- How to Host a Summery Vegan Cocktail Party on the Cheap
- 10 Essentials for the Ultimate Fourth of July
- 7 Must-Have Vegan Summer Beauty Essentials