Today, we’re hearing about veganism more and more every day, but the truth is that this type of diet is not new at all. As a matter of fact, vegetarianism, veganism’s first cousin, can be traced to the Indus Valley AKA modern Pakistan some 5000 years in the past (3300-1300 BC). However, veganism appeared a little bit later, yet still pretty early, in 900-1050, when the world was blessed by al-Ma’arri, an Arab poet. This poet didn’t consume any animal meat and products because of their religious beliefs on the transmigration of the soul, as well as animal wellbeing. Since then, veganism developed, changed and grew and here’s how:
The term “veganism” only came into existence in the 1940s, but the concept of having a plant-based diet can be traced to the aforementioned ancient India, the Arab world as well as eastern Mediterranean societies. According to the vegan societies around the world, there’s evidence of people who refused to eat animal products and use them in any way reaching over 2,000 years in the past. In ancient Greece in 500 BC, famous philosopher Pythagoras and his pupils practiced vegetarianism. Their reasons to avoid consuming animal products were many, most religious and ethical. While modern vegans drew inspiration from the Pythagorean school of thought, they didn’t adopt everything (luckily). For instance, Pythagoreans rejected the consummation of beans because they thought they were made of the same flesh as humans.
A little more to the east, but at the same time, Siddhartha Gautama AKA the Buddha also taught a vegetarian diet to his followers. Also, Hinduism and Jainism are two major religions that promote the thought that humans shouldn’t harm animals in any way.
The first vegetarian society came to life in England, in 1847. Just three years later, Sylvester Graham, a reverend and inventor of Graham crackers, officially brought vegetarianism to America by co-founding the American Vegetarian Society. Graham and his followers led lives that relied on complete virtue: temperance, abstinence, hygiene and vegetarianism.
And even before them, in 1809, Dr William Lambe started practicing a 100% plant-based diet to cure his health problems. In the early 19th century, people who followed a so-called “vegetable diet” often consumed dairy, but Lambe rejected these products too, becoming the first “vegan” as we know them today. Throughout his life, Lambe wrote many books and pamphlets regarding his life and diet, many of which concern his vegan diet and its impact on his health.
True vegans, with the name and everything, didn’t appear until November 1944. At this time, a British woodworker called Donald Watson, his wife Dorothy and five other people who didn’t eat meat or dairy met to discuss their lifestyle. These seven individuals are parents of the vegan movement. The Vegan Society they formed released a statement in which they discussed their new name. Instead of going with “non-dairy veganism” or any other labels like “dairyban”, “vitan” and “benevore”, they settled on “vegan” to name their diet and lifestyle. The word was formed by combining the first and last letters of “vegetarian” to mark the beginning and end of vegetarianism. This event brought the beginning of healthy products we love to eat. Today, it’s possible to get vegan foods, vitamins and supplements delivered to your home address, all thanks to seven people who worked to bright the movement to life.
Why was Watson so successful? Well, in Britain of that time, 40% of all dairy cows had tuberculosis, so he used the vegan lifestyle to offer people protection from tainted foods. When he died in 2005 (aged 95), Britain had 250,000 vegans and the US had whopping 2 million followers. Just some of the famous vegans practising the lifestyle today are Moby, Billie Eilish, Lewis Hamilton and Sia.
Veganism has such a long history that the movement is destined to succeed. Becoming more and more mainstream, veganism is talked about on TV, on radio and many dedicated podcasts. Young people are sharing their experiences and posting interesting vegan recipes on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. Modern-day vegan activists are letting their voices be heard louder than ever. All around the world, people are embracing veganism and making a giant step towards protecting the planet, saving the animals and improving their health. It’s high time you joined as well!
Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.