He lived from September 2, 1910 to November 16, 2005.
He was the founder of the U.K.
Vegan Society and the inventor of the
word "vegan". He died at the age of 95 in his home in northern England.
In 1944 he got together with a group of friends and they
brainstormed to find a word that would describe their diets. He
suggested "vegan", using the first three and last two letters of
"vegetarian". It was the "beginning and end of vegetarian". Together
they founded the Vegan Society. He wrote their
newsletter, which came out in November of 1944 and was called "The
newsletter, you can find the following passage:
Donald Watson reads the first
copy of Vegan News
|"The object of our Group is
to state a case for a reform that we think is moral, safe and
logical. In doing so we shall, of course, say strongly why we
condemn the use of dairy produce and eggs.
To resign oneself to lacto-vegetarianism as a satisfactory
solution to the diet problem is to accept a sequence of horrible
farmyard and slaughter-house incidents as part of an inevitable
Divine Plan. Need it be added that it would imply too accepting
the spectacle of a grown man attached to the udder of a cow as a
dignified and rational intention on the part of Nature!"
newsletter, he also asked members their opinion about the
|"We should all
consider carefully what our Group, and our magazine, and
ourselves, shall be called. 'Non-dairy' has become established
as a generally understood colloquialism, but like 'non-lacto' it
is too negative. Moreover it does not imply that we are opposed
to the use of eggs as food. We need a name that suggests what we
do eat, and if possible one that conveys the idea that even with
all animal foods taboo, Nature still offers us a bewildering
assortment from which to choose. 'Vegetarian' and 'Fruitarian'
are already associated with societies that allow the 'fruits'(!)
of cows and fowls, therefore it seems we must make a new and
appropriate word. As this first issue of our periodical had to
be named, I have used the title "The Vegan News". Should we
adopt this, our diet will soon become known as a VEGAN diet, and
we should aspire to the rank of VEGANS."
|When Donald Watson was asked in an interview
how "vegan" is pronounced, he answered:
|"The pronunciation is "VEEGAN"
not "VAI-GAN," "VEGGAN." or "VEEJAN." The stress is on the first
Other quotes from the
newsletter of "The Vegan News":
|"Having followed a diet free from all
animal food for periods varying from a few weeks in some cases,
to many years in others, we believe our ideas and experiences
are sufficiently mature to be recorded. The unquestionable
cruelty associated with the production of dairy produce has made
it clear that lacto-vegetarianism is but a half-way house
between flesh-eating and a truly humane, civilised diet, and we
think, therefore, that during our life on earth we should try to
evolve sufficiently to make the 'full journey'."
|"We can see quite plainly that our present
civilisation is built on the exploitation of animals, just as
past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and
we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he
will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the
products of animals' bodies."
|"Humbly, your Secretary is able to state
that he can now cycle 230 miles in a day, whereas years ago when
he stoked himself with milk and eggs he was ready for Bed and
Breakfast after doing half that distance. He can also dig his
allotments for ten hours a day without feeling any different
next morning, but we must be careful in making claims lest the
world hears of us and expects to meet eight foot rosy cheeked
muscular monsters who are immune to all ills of the flesh. We
may be sure that should anything so much as a pimple ever appear
to marr the beauty of our physical form, it will be entirely due
in the eyes of the world to our own silly fault for not eating
Other quotes are taken from a
transcript of a 3-hour taped interview conducted by George D. Rodger
December 15, 2002, when Donald Watson was 92 years old and a
2004 interview with Vegetarians in Paradise when he was 94.
of my earliest recollections is of holidays on my Uncle George's
farm where I was surrounded by interesting animals. They all
"gave" something: the farm horse pulled the plough, the lighter
horse pulled the trap, the cows "gave" milk, the hens "gave"
eggs and the cockerel was a useful "alarm clock" - I didn't
realise at that time that he had another function too. The sheep
"gave" wool. I could never understand what the pigs "gave", but
they seemed such friendly creatures - always glad to see me.
Then the day came when one of the pigs was killed: I still have
vivid recollections of the whole process - including the
screams, of course. One thing that shocked me was that my Uncle
George, of whom I thought very highly, was part of the crew. I
decided that farms - and uncles - had to be reassessed: the
idyllic scene was nothing more than Death Row, where every
creature's days were numbered by the point at which it was no
longer of service to human beings."
|When asked what events in life led him to
vegetarianism and veganism, he answered:
|"As a child seeing animals pushed through
doors alongside butchers' shops to be killed. I once saw a cow
and a calf enter together. I wondered later which one the
butcher killed first. On one occasion I actually watched a cow
being killed at an abattoir in a field where local children were
free to watch and where they hoped to be given a bladder to use
as a football. I also watched a pig being killed when I visited
an uncle's farm. I turned vegetarian at the age of fourteen."
"It was a New Year Resolution. Did you ever
hear anyone say there's no point in making New Year Resolutions
because they're always broken? You can quote me as an exception
to the rule, because, since 1924, I've never eaten any meat, or
"My conversion to veganism was about
eighteen years later when I learned about the biological
mechanics of milk production."
|"quite early in life, I came to the
conclusion that, if I was to report on Man's progress, I had to
settle for the comment beloved of schoolteachers: "could do
better". And from that, The Vegan Society was formed."
|"the world population, which was about 2
billion people in 1944, is now more than 6 billion people,...
along with, I would say, a corresponding explosion of animals to
feed most of them. And those animals are there, fed on food that
should be growing for the Third World."
"Whenever I look across a graveyard and see all the stones, I
think what enormous agony all the people who are buried there
-most unnecessary agony -must have gone through during their
lives and all the herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and shoals
of fish went into the lives of every one of them to keep their
little show on the road, believing, as Lang said, they were
doing nothing wrong."
|"fishing, which has always been accepted
as a very peaceful occupation, one to encourage young children
to adopt, because it takes their mind off other nefarious things
that young people fall into -these creatures can never be a
threat to man, because they're trapped in their environment.
Unlike any other animal pests, they can never over-run the dry
land -they're trapped there, and, when caught, they can never
relieve their feelings with a scream, like other animals do.
What agony they die in, in their millions, will never be known.
So much for the pacifist view of fishing."
|"whatever sort of place Heaven might be, I
consider veganism is, as near to that aspiration that we, as
fallible humans, can get. Someone also said, "Heaven is a
temper, not a place." and I hope most vegans would believe in
|"vivisection ... is probably the cruellest
of all Man's attack on the rest of Creation. Particularly since
it hopes to give benefits. Even if it does, we must ask the
question, after millions of lives have been sacrificed, if all
this effort had gone into other fields of investigation, like
simple reformed living, would not the results far outweigh the
benefits of vivisection, whatever they may be."
|When asked about his views on direct action, he answered:
|"I respect the people enormously who do it,
believing that it's the most direct and quick way to achieve
their ends. If I were an animal in a vivisection cage, I would
thank the person who broke in and let me out, but, having said
that, we must always remember: is it just possible that our act
could, just could, be counterproductive? I'd rather not say
"yes" or "no", because I don't know the answer to that."
|When asked whether he has a message to all the people who
are now vegan, he answered:
|"Take the broad view of what veganism
stands for - something beyond finding a new alternative to
scrambled eggs on toast or a new recipe for Christmas cake.
Realise that you're on to something really big, something that
hadn't been tried until sixty years ago, and something which is
meeting every reasonable criticism that anyone can level against
it. And this doesn't involve weeks or months of studying diet
charts or reading books by socalled experts - it means grasping
a few simple facts and applying them."
|When asked about his message to vegetarians, he answered:
|"To vegetarians, I would say, accept, as,
if you're honest you must, that vegetarianism, whilst being a
necessary stepping-stone, between meat eating and veganism, is
only a stepping stone. ... vegetarians must realise that,
although they might find it inconvenient at times, to go the
whole way, that is the path that our experience shows that they
|"We don't know the spiritual advancements
that long term veganism -I mean not over years or even decades,
but over generations, would have on human life. It would be
certainly a different civilisation, and the first one in the
whole of our history that would truly deserve the title of being
a civilisation. Full stop."
|"Veganism gives us all the opportunity to
say what we "stand for" in life. The ideal of healthy, humane
living is now easy with modern transport bringing us vegan foods
from all over the world. Join us and add decades of health to
your life, with a clear conscience as a bonus."