Donald Watson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the English animal rights advocate. For other uses, see Donald Watson (disambiguation).
Donald Watson
Donald watson.jpg
Donald Watson reading the first issue of The Vegan
Born (1910-09-02)2 September 1910
Mexborough, Yorkshire, UK
Died 16 November 2005(2005-11-16) (aged 95)
Keswick, Cumbria, UK
Occupation Woodwork teacher[1]
Known for Founder of the Vegan Society and coining the word vegan

Donald Watson (2 September 1910 – 16 November 2005) was an English animal rights advocate who coined the word vegan and founded the Vegan Society.

Early life[edit]

Watson was born in Mexborough, Yorkshire, the son of a headmaster in a mining community, an environment in which vegetarianism, let alone veganism, was unknown.[1] His parents, however, encouraged and supported their three children in determining their own paths in life, a liberal approach which enabled him to formulate ideas both challenging and controversial. Watson held his parents in great esteem, and often expressed his gratitude for their wisdom in accepting, if not understanding, his philosophy.[citation needed]

His journey to veganism began when he was very young, at the farm of his Uncle George. There, he said:

He realised what purpose the pigs served when he saw one slaughtered, and his life was changed.[3] He became a vegetarian at the age of fourteen, as a New Year resolution, although he did not know any others.[1]


On leaving school at fifteen, Watson was apprenticed to a family joinery firm, and from the age of twenty became a joinery teacher.[4] He taught in Leicester, where he also played a large part in the Leicester Vegetarian Society. He moved on to Keswick, where he taught for twenty-three years.[1] He continued to live there after retirement, working with the Cumbrian Vegetarian Society, and campaigning through the local press on matters important in his home community.[citation needed] For several years he devoted much time to working as a guided fell-walking leader,[5] as well as to organic vegetable gardening, until very shortly before his death, aged 95.[4]

Veganism and The Vegan Society[edit]

As Watson grew up, he did not smoke, consume alcohol, or make contact with foods or substances which he regarded as 'toxins'. In the 1940s, after learning about milk production, he became a vegan.[1] He explained his motivation as ethical concern for sentient animals:

In November 1944 in Leicester, he and his wife, Dorothy, and four friends founded the Vegan Society.[3] Someone in the group would have come up with a word to describe their way of life, he believed, but he suggested 'vegan' - "the beginning and end of 'vegetarian'" - "because veganism starts with vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion."[3] Watson and the group launched the first edition of the Society's quarterly newsletter, The Vegan News, in the same year.[7] He ran the publication single-handed for two years, writing and duplicating the newsletter, and responding to the increasing volume of correspondence.[3]

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.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Watson enjoyed cycling, photography and playing the violin, and while not a party political supporter, he took a keen interest in political issues throughout his life.[5][9] Watson was an agnostic.[3]

Watson never sought any recognition for his early work in founding the Vegan Society. He was able to surprise his many critics[10] 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.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Obituary: Donald Watson". BBC. November 18, 2005. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  2. ^ The Vegan Summer, 2003 Edition.. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Interview with Donald Watson - Vegan Founder". Foods for Life. December 15, 2002. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  4. ^ a b Davison, Phil (24 November 2005). "Donald Watson - Founder of veganism and the Vegan Society". Obituary (London: The Independent). Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  5. ^ a b Interview with Donald Watson at Accessed 2 Nov 2009
  6. ^ Donald Watson in Vegan News nº1, November 1944.
  7. ^ "Obituary: Donald Watson". BBC News. 18 November 2005. 
  8. ^ a b Booth, Jenny (December 8, 2005). "Donald Watson". Obituary (London: TheTimes). Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  9. ^ George D Rodger’s Unabridged Interview With Donald Watson on Sunday 15 December 2002
  10. ^ 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. 

External links[edit]