Buzz

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.

More Buzz

You Are 5 Minutes Away From Having the Perfect Vegan Winter Face

Get your seasonal glow in less time than it takes to brew your morning coffee.
Read More »

VegNews Holiday Cookie Contest 2017 Finalists

Drum roll, please! We present the 10 finalists in this year's VegNews Holiday Cookie Contest.
Read More »

18 Vegan Things We Can't Wait to Try in 2018

The new year is quickly approaching, and vegan cannabis gummies, bottled Starbucks Frappuccinos, and three new vegan whipped cream options await on the other side.
Read More »

Top 10 Vegan Stories of 2017

Want to know the hottest vegan lifestyle stories of 2017? Here are your top 10 favorite reads of the year.
Read More »

No, Hemp Will Not Get You High. Yes, You Need it Anyway.

Hemp seeds are a healthy superfood that can help vegans (and everyone else) get the protein and healthy fats they need for optimal health.
Read More »

This Week on VegNews TV: The secret to these delightful sweet treats is white beans! Aylin Erman shows you how to make these simple blondies.

More Videos »