||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (July 2010)|
Donald Watson reading the first issue of The Vegan
2 September 1910|
Mexborough, Yorkshire, UK
|Died||16 November 2005
Keswick, Cumbria, UK
|Known for||Founding of the Vegan Society and coining the word vegan.|
|“||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.||”|
He realised what purpose the pigs served when he saw one slaughtered, and his life was changed. At the age of 14, he became a vegetarian as a New Year's resolution, and in the 1940s, after learning about milk production, he became a vegan.
The term "vegan" was coined in England by Donald Watson, motivation was ethical concern for sentient animals:
|“||We can see quite plainly that our present civilization is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilizations 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"||”|
In 1944 he and some friends founded the Vegan Society. Someone in the group would have come up with a word to describe their diets, he believes, but he suggested "vegan", using the first three and last two letters of "vegetarian". It was "the beginning and end of vegetarian", and it stuck.
At the age of 95, Watson died in his home in northern England.
The son of a headmaster in a mining community of Yorkshire, Watson was born into an environment in which vegetarianism, let alone veganism, was unknown. Donald's parents, however, encouraged and supported their three children in determining their own paths in life, a liberal approach which enabled Donald to formulate ideas which were both challenging and controversial. He held his parents in great esteem, and often expressed his gratitude for their wisdom in accepting, if not understanding, his philosophy.
On leaving school at age fifteen, Watson became apprenticed to a family joinery firm where he perfected the skills necessary to work with wood, later (from the age of twenty) becoming a teacher of this subject. He taught in Leicester, where he also played a large part in the Leicester Vegetarian Society, and later in Keswick, where he practised fell-walking and organic vegetable gardening until very shortly before his death.
The Development of Veganism and The Vegan Society
In Leicester, Watson expanded his philosophy to object to any harm to living creatures. A committed pacifist throughout his life, Watson registered as a conscientious objector in World War II. It was at this time that he and his wife, Dorothy, decided on the word 'vegan' to describe his way of life, by taking the first three and last two letters of "vegetarian," - "because veganism starts with vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion."
Watson and his wife founded The Vegan Society and launched the first edition of its quarterly newsletter, The Vegan News, in the same year. He ran the publication single-handed for two years, writing and duplicating the newsletter, and responding to the increasing volume of correspondence.
Donald continued to live in Keswick, where he taught for twenty-three years. He also worked with the Cumbrian Vegetarian Society, and campaigned through the local press on matters important in his home community. For several years after his retirement from teaching he devoted much time to working as a guided walks leader.
Watson never sought any recognition for his early work in founding the Vegan Society. He was able to surprise his many critics who claimed that he could not survive on his proposed diet by proving that he would not only survive but survive well and free from the need for doctors’ interventions in his final days.
- "Obituary: Donald Watson". BBC. November 18, 2005. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
- The Vegan Summer, 2003 Edition.. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
- "Interview with Donald Watson - Vegan Founder". Foods for Life. December 15, 2002. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
- Donald Watson in Vegan News nº1, November 1944.
- Davison, Phil (24 November 2005). "Donald Watson - Founder of veganism and the Vegan Society". Obituary (London: The Independent). Retrieved 2009-11-02.
- Booth, Jenny (December 8, 2005). "Donald Watson". Obituary (London: The Times). Retrieved 2009-11-02.
- "Obituary: Donald Watson". BBC News. 18 November 2005.
- Interview with Donald Watson at Vegparadise.com Accessed 2 Nov 2009
- George D Rodger’s Unabridged Interview With Donald Watson on Sunday 15 December 2002
- Elliott, Rose (14 January 2006). "Donald Watson - The first vegan, who invented the word - and outlived his many critics". Obituary (London: The Guardian). Retrieved 2009-11-02.
- First issue of the Vegan Society newsletter November 1944, Published and written by Donald Watson. Accessed November 2009
- Vegan Society main website (contains various, changing information pages and leaflets about Donald Watson)