Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society, was only 12 when he resolved to no longer eat meat. Heres why you should consider it too.
The term “vegan” was coined in the year 1944 when the very first Vegan Society was formed in England. Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society, was only 12 years old when he resolved to no longer eat meat. The year was 1922, a time when people generally still ate what they could get their hands on. However, after witnessing a pig getting slaughtered, Watson could no longer participate in such a practice.
Pushing veganism forth
Since that life-changing day, Watson was a key player in the vegetarian and vegan movements. When he was met with pushback from the Vegetarian Society over forming a non-dairy section, he decided to branch off and form his own society—one that renounced all animal products, not just meat.
The Vegan Society was a one-man show for its first two years, operating out of Watson’s home. Watson worked tirelessly on top of his full-time job as a woodwork teacher and wartime duties. He started up a newsletter called the Vegan News, which he sent out to 500 subscribers (check out the very first issue here). He also lobbied government officials for special rations for vegans. Vegetarians, for example, got extra cheese rations in lieu of meat.
After the war the Vegan Society expanded, forming a committee to divide the work among. Watson sat on the committee for a while until moving on to a new teaching job. He lived a long, healthy life, passing away in 2005 at the age of 95.
Today it’s not overly odd to follow a vegan diet. A vegetarian diet that includes some animal products such as dairy and eggs is even more common. Although the figures are not verified for Canada, a 2008 survey of Americans determined that 3.2 percent of the population follows a vegetarian diet. If these figures carry over to Canada (some would guess they might even be higher) that would work out to more than 1.1 million Canadians.
More and more research continues to be released touting the health benefits of a plant-diet (and the negative effects of consuming meat—red meat in particular). Three in the past month alone are promising.
One discusses how the bioactive compounds in fruits and veggies control “genetic and other biological factors that lead to chronic disease,” suggesting that a diet high in fruit and veggies may reduce our risk of chronic inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and tumour formation. Another focuses specifically on prostate cancer and how a high intake of flavonoids from plant-based foods and beverages may help prevent aggressive prostate cancer from developing. The third addresses how dietary protein and iron from red meat may combine to form carcinogens, increasing one’s risk of bladder cancer.
With all this science backing a plant-based diet, it’s no surprise that Vegan Society founder Donald Watson lived to such a ripe old age.
What can you do?
Whether you’re full-out vegan, toying with the idea, or just want to limit your meat consumption, there are many activities you can partake in to celebrate World Vegan Day (and subsequently World Vegan Month, which is the entire month of November). Such activities include:
- holding a vegan potluck
- organizing a film showing (acclaimed films that challenge the status quo include Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, and Fast Food Nation, among others)
- attending a vegan community group
- signing up for a vegan cooking class
- taking a 30 day challenge to consume no animal products
- cooking meat-free one day a week, such as Meatless Monday
- swapping out animal-derived products for cruelty-free ones
Have any other ideas? Let us know how you’ll be celebrating World Vegan Day!