Let me start by saying I’m not a big history buff, I didn’t even take it for a GCSE in school, but it struck me today that I didn’t know where a large part of my life, and belief system came from, and this, to me was very scary.
After all the notion of a vegan hasn’t been around that long – yes of course there are always people way back when (usually philosophers) who ate a plant based diet, but I’m talking about it in a modern context
As early as 1909 the ethics of consuming dairy products were hotly debated within the vegetarian movement which was already in full swing. However the term ‘Vegan’ and The Vegan Society, wasn’t born until 1944 by founder and vegetarian society rebel Donald Watson.
The term Vegan was derived at a meeting of six like-minded ‘non-dairy vegetarians’ in London with Donald, and if you didn’t already know, the name comes from the shortening of the word VEGetariAN. (I didn’t know that!)
Since then a lot has changed, and many forms of Vegan exist. According to Wikipedia “Veganism /ˈviːɡənɪzəm/ is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as following an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals.
Distinctions are sometimes made between different categories of veganism. Dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat but, in contrast to ovo-lacto vegetarians, also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances. The term ethical vegan is often applied to those who not only follow a vegan diet, but extend the vegan philosophy into other areas of their lives, and oppose the use of animals or animal products for any purpose. Another term used is environmental veganism, which refers to the avoidance of animal products on the premise that the harvesting or industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.”
According to several sources; Pol Pot, Hitler, Genghis Khan and Charles Manson were vegetarian and even vegan at stages of their lives. I know that this fact has nothing to do with the outcome of their actions or who they were in history, but what if they had an impact on vegetarians and vegans today?
Here’s a few animal laws and milestones that came on my screen when researching this post that I thought notable, I know there will be lots more on the timeline – but to keep it readable I’m only adding high profile ones.
On April 21, 1933, a law was passed by the Nazi’s concerning the slaughter of animals. Germany was also the first nation to ban vivisection on August 16, 1933, by Hermann Göring as the prime minister of Prussia. He announced an end to the “unbearable torture and suffering in animal experiments” and said that those who “still think they can continue to treat animals as inanimate property” will be sent to concentration camps.
Throughout 1950 – 1960 as pets became more common place, the UK created Welfare codes and laws protecting animals, including The Pet Animals Act 1951 (amended 1983) The Cock fighting Act 1952, and The Abandonment of Animals Act 1960.
1958 – The Humane Slaughter Act was passed only four years after The Humane Society of the United States formation. (25 years after the Nazi’s)
1966 – The US Congress adopts the Animal Welfare Testing Act which excludes rodents and birds. States adopted animal welfare laws; US Public Health Service, Policy on the Humane Care and use of Laboratory Animals; American Association for the Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC).
1975 – Australian philosopher Peter Singer published Animal Liberation, the book coined the term “speciesism”.
March 1980 – Aug 1980 – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was created by Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco.
In 1980: Sundarapore, became the first country in modern times to declare a ban on possessing (including carrying, storing, selling, and consuming) meat. At the time of the declaration, approximately 96% of the Singaporean population was already vegetarian.
1987 California high school student Jennifer Graham makes international headlines when she refuses to dissect a frog. The practice is taken off of many schools curriculum or seen as ‘optional’.
In June 1989 Avon announced a permanent end to animal testing of their products, including testing done in outside laboratories. Avon was the first major cosmetic company in the world to end animal testing.
1993 General Motors stops using live animals in crash tests. (1993! – For shame!)
1994 Tyke the elephant goes on a rampage, killing her trainer and escaping from the circus before being gunned down by police, highlighting the cruelty of the circus industry to the world.
2002 – McDonald’s settles a class-action lawsuit over their non-vegetarian French Fries.
In 2004 it became illegal to hunt wild mammals with dogs in England. This Hunting Ban – which divided the country – put an end to traditional fox hunting parties in the countryside, and made it a criminal offence that could end in a hefty penalty or arrest if broken by the public.
Obviously this is just a potted history of the animal movement – but it’s interesting to see how far we have come, and in some cases, still have to go.
I hope you’ve found this interesting, or maybe even picked up a few facts!
I’m going to leave you with the first ever edition of The Vegan News; written by Donald Watson and published in November 1944.
*Please note all photos used are not my own* ;