What is a vegan? A vegan is someone who abstains from using animal products. Not only do they not eat meat, fish, or poultry, they don’t use anything that uses animal products or by-products. They don’t eat eggs, dairy products, or honey, and they don’t wear leather, fur, silk, or wool. They don’t use cosmetics, crayons, medication in capsule form, or soaps that are derived from animal products. And they are not to be confused with vegetarians.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune of December 10, 1997 led with a story on the front page of Section E with an article written by Jessica Wehrman that discussed the vegan lifestyle in detail. The subheading read: The trend toward a meatless diet is driven by religion and consideration for health, environment and animals. Along with the article was a list of resources for readers interested in learning more about the vegan lifestyle, and, of course, the article was titled, “Going Vegan.”
In Volume 49 of “Today’s Health” published by the American Medical Association in 1971, the issue was discussed in an article. It included this passage:
Does the word “vegan” mean vegetarian? Are vegetarians healthier than persons who eat animal products? A vegan is considered to be a strict vegetarian — that is, a person who eats no animal products.
And in Volume 106 of the “Journal of the Royal Society of Arts” an article can be found on page 117 that included this passage:
In some vegan women (teachers and housewives, for example) their dietary protein provided only 8.7 to 10. 1 per cent of their total dietary calories, as compared with an average of about 12 per cent in normal British post-war diets.
Interestingly enough, entering the 1950s, vegans can be found in a number of science fiction stories, especially those in the pulp fiction genre.
However, sandwiched between all the great science fiction stories that include extraterrestrial vegans lies the historical facts of vegans who do not consume animal products or by-products.
In November 1944, a strict vegetarian by the name of Donald Watson (2 September 1910 – 16 November 2005) who was also a member of the Leicester Vegetarian Society decided to begin his own movement. He and others had grown dissatisfied with vegetarians who consumed dairy and eggs.
He issued his first newsletter entitled, “Vegan News” and he was quoted as stating that the word vegan was meant to represent “the beginning and end of vegetarian.” The word, in a nutshell (pardon the pun) was a stand against vegetarians who consumed dairy and eggs.
Shortly thereafter, the first vegan cookbooks were published: “Vegetarian Recipes Without Dairy Produce” by Margaret B. Rawls, and “Vegan Recipes” by Fay K. Henderson.
Even today, within the vegetarian community there are factions: pollotarians (those who eat chicken and eggs), pescetarians (those who eat fish), and flexetarians (those who eat primarily plants but occasionally include small amounts of meat). But the only group to break away from the vegetarian movement and create a movement all their own are vegans. All the others are vegetarians of a different color.
Idiomation conclusive pegs the term vegan to 1944 and Donald Watson.