Donald Watson

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Donald Watson
Donald watson.jpg
Donald Watson reading the first issue of The Vegan
Born(1910-09-02)2 September 1910
Mexborough, Yorkshire, UK
Died16 November 2005(2005-11-16) (aged 95)
Keswick, Cumbria, UK
OccupationWoodwork teacher[1]
Known forFounder 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] As a child, Watson spent time on his Uncle George's farm. The slaughtering of a pig on the farm horrified Watson; he said his view of farm life changed from idyllic to a death row for animals. Watson began to reassess his practice of eating meat. He became a vegetarian in 1924 at the age of fourteen, making a New Year's resolution to never again eat meat. He gave up dairy about 18 years later, having decided the production of milk-related products was also unethical.[1][2][3]

He said:


Upon leaving school at fifteen, Watson was apprenticed to a family joinery firm, and from became a joinery teacher when he was twenty.[5] 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 23 years. He stayed in Cumbria for the rest of his life.[1] For several years, he devoted much time to working as a guided fell-walking leader,[6] as well as to organic vegetable gardening, until very shortly before his death in 2005, aged 95.[5]

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:

Critics claimed that he could not survive on his proposed diet.[8] In November 1944, in Leicester, he and his wife, Dorothy along with four friends founded the Vegan Society.[9] 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."[9] Watson and the group launched the first edition of the Society's quarterly newsletter, The Vegan News, in the same year.[10] He ran the publication single-handed for two years, writing and duplicating the newsletter, and responding to the increasing volume of correspondence.[9]

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.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Watson enjoyed cycling, photography and playing the violin, and while not a supporter of any particular political party; he took a keen interest in political issues throughout his life.[6][12] Watson was an agnostic.[9]

His brother and sister both adopted vegan lifestyles along with him. All three Watson siblings registered as conscientious objectors during World War II.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Obituary: Donald Watson". BBC. November 18, 2005. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  2. ^ Interview with Donald Watson
  3. ^ Donald Watson The Guardian
  4. ^ The Vegan Summer, 2003 Edition. Archived 2009-12-01 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
  5. ^ a b Davison, Phil (24 November 2005). "Donald Watson - Founder of veganism and the Vegan Society". Obituary. London: The Independent. Retrieved 2009-11-02.
  6. ^ a b Interview with Donald Watson at Accessed 2 Nov 2009
  7. ^ Donald Watson in Vegan News nº1, November 1944.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b c d "Interview with Donald Watson - Vegan Founder". Foods for Life. December 15, 2002. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  10. ^ "Obituary: Donald Watson". BBC News. 18 November 2005.
  11. ^ Booth, Jenny (December 8, 2005). "Donald Watson". Obituary. London: TheTimes. Retrieved 2009-11-02.
  12. ^ George D Rodger’s Unabridged Interview With Donald Watson on Sunday 15 December 2002

External links[edit]