Donald Watson reading the first issue of The Vegan
2 September 1910|
Mexborough, Yorkshire, UK
|Died||16 November 2005
Keswick, Cumbria, UK
|Known for||Founder of the Vegan Society and coining the word vegan|
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. 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 unethical.
|“||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.||”|
On leaving school at fifteen, Watson was apprenticed to a family joinery firm, and from the age of twenty became a joinery teacher. 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. He stayed in Cumbria for the rest of his life. For several years he devoted much time to working as a guided fell-walking leader, as well as to organic vegetable gardening, until very shortly before his death, aged 95.
Veganism and The Vegan Society
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. He explained his motivation as ethical concern for sentient animals:
|“||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"||”|
Critics claimed that he could not survive on his proposed diet. In November 1944 in Leicester, he and his wife, Dorothy, and four friends founded the Vegan Society. 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." Watson and the group launched the first edition of the Society's 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.
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. Watson was an agnostic.
His brother and sister both adopted vegan lifestyles along with him. All three Watson siblings registered as conscientious objectors during World War II.
- "Obituary: Donald Watson". BBC. November 18, 2005. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
- Interview with Donald Watson FoodsforLife.org.uk
- Donald Watson The Guardian
- The Vegan Summer, 2003 Edition.. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
- Davison, Phil (24 November 2005). "Donald Watson - Founder of veganism and the Vegan Society". Obituary (London: The Independent). Retrieved 2009-11-02.
- Interview with Donald Watson at Vegparadise.com Accessed 2 Nov 2009
- Donald Watson in Vegan News nº1, November 1944.
- 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.
- "Interview with Donald Watson - Vegan Founder". Foods for Life. December 15, 2002. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
- "Obituary: Donald Watson". BBC News. 18 November 2005.
- Booth, Jenny (December 8, 2005). "Donald Watson". Obituary (London: TheTimes). Retrieved 2009-11-02.
- George D Rodger’s Unabridged Interview With Donald Watson on Sunday 15 December 2002