The Vegan Society, the world's first, was born in November 1944 - after a lengthy gestation. As early as 1909 the ethics of consuming dairy products were hotly debated within the vegetarian movement. In August 1944, Elsie Shrigley and Donald Watson (a conscientious objector later to be acclaimed as the Vegan Society's Founder) agreed the desirability of coordinating 'non-dairy vegetarians'; despite opposition from prominent vegetarians unwilling to even consider adopting a diet free of all animal products.
In November, Donald organised a London meeting of six like-minded 'non-dairy vegetarians' at which it was decided to form a new society and adopt a new name to describe themselves - vegan derived from VEGetariAN.
It was a Sunday, with sunshine, and a blue sky, an auspicious day for the birth of an idealistic new movement.
- Elsie Shrigley, The Vegan magazine, Spring 1962
Read the first ever edition of "The Vegan News" (pdf file), written by Donald Watson and published in November 1944.
The Society's strength is its membership. Countless thousands of people have benefited from joining the Society - initially, with advice and support to help with the transition to a vegan diet, through to help with more practical issues finding non-animal products and maintaining a vegan lifestyle within a largely unsympathetic society. Once their veganism has become established, many members continue their membership to support the Society's work persuading more people to go vegan (for the benefit of people, animals and the environment) and to encourage manufacturers to make more vegan-friendly goods.
Today, the Society remains as determined as ever to promote vegan lifestyles - that is, ways of living that seek to exclude, as far as is possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. With your help, veganism will soon be accepted and understood across the globe. Ultimately, the use of animal products (such as meat, dairy, eggs, leather and wool) will be viewed as an inhumane and unsustainable practice from a much less enlightened age.
In addition to this website, the Society promotes veganism through:
- books, videos and other publications
- the quarterly magazine The Vegan
- a trademark to help vegans identify suitable products
- a local contact network (in the UK only at present)
- by providing detailed factual information on a wide range of topics
- through annual promotions on World Vegan Day (1 November)
Further details on the make up and operation of the Society are included in our Articles of Association.