This summer, The American Vegan Center will open in Philadelphia, PA—the city where the United States vegetarian and vegan movements began. The new vegan welcome center will feature a store (selling everything from vegan books to T-shirts to Philadelphia-specific vegan souvenirs), event space, and information center that will offer Old City vegan history tours to promote cruelty-free living to tourists and the general public. Situated near the home of Benjamin Franklin (who introduced America to tofu), the center is operated by The American Vegan Society (AVS), the longest-running vegan advocacy organization in the US, in partnership with vegan columnist Vance Lehmkuhl, the author of Eating Vegan in Philly.
On June 15, The American Vegan Center will hold its first public event to commemorate the anniversary of the establishment of the American branch of the vegetarian Bible Christian Church in Philadelphia in 1817—the first vegetarian group in the US. The event will feature cartooning, tours, free giveaways, and more. “Our city’s veg history is very rich and very much worth knowing,” Lehmkuhl said.
Future events at the center are scheduled to begin in late 2021 and will focus on book signings, cooking classes, presentations, and discussion groups. The center will also promote vegan-themed events and plant-based food options throughout Philadelphia and serve as a celebration site for holidays such as Philly Vegan Day, World Vegan Month, and Vegan Cheesesteak Day.
How the vegan movement began
While lifestyles free from animal products have existed all around the world for centuries, the term “vegan” was officially coined in 1944 by woodworker Donald Watson, who founded The Vegan Society in the United Kingdom.
Veganism was popularized in the United States by Jay Dinshah, who went vegan in 1957 after touring a slaughterhouse in Philadelphia and founded AVS in 1960. “Now that ‘vegan’ has arrived, AVS is happy to join the city’s wonderful vegan community and welcome people to Philadelphia,” AVS President Freya Dinshah, wife of the late founder who has helped operate the organization for more than 60 years, said.