Hidden Histories

You are here

» Hidden Histories

Raising the profile of veganism

The Vegan Society seeks to find out as much as possible about our members’ past experiences of veganism and of vegan advocacy.  Through your personal stories, we can celebrate vegan diets and lifestyles in all their diversity, and promote veganism to a wider audience.

Histories uncovered so far

In the spring 2014 issue of The Vegan magazine, we sent out a request for vegans in their 70s to share their stories about becoming vegan for the Hidden Histories campaign. We were delighted with your response.

From those who discovered the lifestyle decades ago to those who embraced it after retirement, every journey that ends in veganism is an inspiration. You have helped us to get where we are today. Here are just some of the testimonies of our older members who have undertaken a compassionate way of life, and have decided to share their experiences with us and the world.

Patricia's Story

My journey to veganism has been a long one. I was brought up in an urban environment, but I had relatives who farmed traditionally.  From a young age, I spent much of my free time down at the farm, learning to milk the cows and watching the pigs roaming the countryside.

In 1971, we bought a smallholding, kept various livestock and grew vegetables. I went to the local abattoir to see how the animals were killed. It seemed like the best option, to make the journey as short as possible for the animals. Over the years, I began to dislike more and more this last journey, and abusing the trust of the animals. By 1993, we had no livestock. We left the fields to grow, had paths mown through them, and have managed to encourage wildlife to thrive there again.

A little later my son, Terry, introduced me to his girlfriend. Jo was the first vegan I came to know and a passionate one. I experimented with vegan cakes and found it easy to veganise our favourites: gingerbread, sticky lemon, and fruit cake. I cooked main meals that we all enjoyed, and found that none of it gave me indigestion as meat and dairy had. 

"By 1993, we had no livestock. We left the fields to grow, had paths mown through them, and have managed to encourage wildlife to thrive there again."

Eventually, it was the realisation that farming animals uses up precious land and resources that made me want to be vegan – and I’m so glad I did. It is great being part of The Vegan Society and the growing worldwide vegan movement. Terry and Jo married, and they are both passionate advocates of a vegan and green lifestyle. I very much enjoy seeing my vegan granddaughter, Rosa, growing up.

Christine's Story

I am aged 83, a life-vegetarian and vegan since 1948. For a couple of years I had been interested in becoming a vegan but the turning point was my attendance at a talk given by Leslie Cross, an early pioneer of veganism.

"During my life, I have visited all corners of the earth and have always managed to maintain my vegan diet."  

I served on the Vegan Society committee in those early years and only gave up when my work as a teacher became too demanding. My main task was compiling the vegan trade list – a forerunner of the much improved “Animal Free Shopper”.

During my life, I have visited all corners of the earth in Europe, America, Africa, Asia, Australia and despite the difficulties have always managed to maintain my vegan diet.

George's Story

I am vegan – have been for over 50 years – and I am well over 70 (I turned 79 in July 2014).

When I was a lad my father kept chickens. They were free-range, and I cared for them very much. But every so often, he would kill one and prepare it for the table. The whole process horrified me, and when I was 14, I gave up eating meat.

I started meeting up with other vegetarians and vegans when I was in my 20s. In 1962, I made a New Year’s resolution to go all the way and become vegan. I have been vegan ever since.

In 1965, I married Shirley Nicholson – a life vegetarian who I met through the British Youth Vegetarian Movement. Our three children are all vegans, which pleases me hugely. Adam and Dylan are married and between them have three children. Heather, our eldest, has for many years been actively engaged in campaigning against cruelty to animals. 

"In 1962, I made a New Year’s resolution to go all the way and become vegan. I have been vegan ever since."  

For a few years, I ran the Swansea Vegetarian Society and in July 2002 I started the Swansea Vegans. We met regularly (every month) for five years. The group is now managed by someone else.

Ann's Story

Until my mid-40s I ate and cooked meat and fish. Two of my children were vegetarian and I supported them in this, but I had no particular desire to join them. In 1988, I started to go to Birmingham Buddhist Centre and have since become a Buddhist. This made me look at the ethical decisions I was making. When I looked at the welfare of Annanimals, it seemed obvious that veganism was the answer. I gave up meat first and then fish. 

Friends and family were shocked at first but now they are very helpful when I visit. I enjoy bean and seed sprouting, and I have introduced that to many friends.

Over the years, I have studied vegan nutrition and cook books, and have experimented a lot with recipes. I take a vegan vitamin and mineral supplement, but also many of my omnivore friends take food supplements of various kinds, so it’s not a big deal. 

"When I looked at the welfare of animals, it seemed obvious that veganism was the answer. I gave up meat first and then fish."

As I have moved more and more into veganism, I have felt happier and freer. I particularly noticed this when I lived in rural New Zealand several years ago. I felt I could look the cows in the face and open my heart to their animal suffering.

I am also happy to be reducing my contribution to climate change and support the Campaign for Safer Medicines, which is lobbying for more tests on human tissue and other ways of reducing and stopping the dependence of Western medicine on animals. 

Janet's Story

I am 76 (and three quarters) and have been a vegan for about 30 years. I began as a vegetarian but, through helping out with some local Animal Aid campaigns, I was converted to veganism and have never looked back.

"There are so many new and exciting recipes to follow – not to mention good vegan alternatives for anyone in a hurry."

My background is in the theatre. I trained as a dancer but discovered that acting was more my bag. I have
since worked in this field for over fifty years. I also write. I do some of my old dancing exercises every morning (not as many as I used to but enough to stretch my limbs), and enjoy early morning dog walks.  

I have been married for 48 years to fellow actor Ron Wellings, aged 77 and also a vegan. Back in the 20th century it was more difficult to be a vegan, but nowadays I find that pubs and restaurants are no longer horror-struck by the thought of providing suitable meals. I prefer homemade food and there are so many new and exciting recipes to follow – not to mention good vegan meat and dairy alternatives for anyone in a hurry.

Chris's Story

I was born in February 1942 – a “war baby”. Although I was only three when the war finished, I can still remember the sound of air raid sirens.

Also at an early age, I can recall being horrified when I learnt that meat came from animals that had been deliberately killed. This was in direct contradiction to what I had been taught in Sunday school: “Thou shalt not kill.”

I hated meat and the brutality that it represented, but my parents were of the generation that believed children could not grow healthily without it. I dreaded many of my childhood meals, which were often unpleasant and fraught with disagreement; I remember hiding lumps of meat in a tissue and flushing them down the toilet. I became fully vegetarian in my teenage years. I knew of no other vegetarians at the time or for many years following. Somewhat regrettably, I did not broadcast the fact that I was a vegetarian to others, as I did not wish to appear “odd.” .How different the situation is now! And how proud I am to do what little I can to promote our cause, and indeed to be a vegan!

"I have been vegan for about ten years, and my commitment to the vegan philosophy is unshakable." 

My mind is haunted and troubled by what goes on behind-the-scenes, particularly in factory farms and slaughter houses. As a Christian, it has long concerned me that the Christian churches do little if anything to condemn the brutalities inherent in the meat and dairy industries. I have been vegan for about ten years, and my commitment to the vegan philosophy is unshakable. My hope is that my efforts over the years have resulted in at least some conversions to a vegan way of life.

Yvonne's Story

How did I become vegan? I had been vegetarian for seven years and a vegan, who is now a very dear friend of mine, came to work with me. Within days, and helped by her, I made myself study the reality of the dairy industry.  As a result, I became vegan and have stayed vegan for 24 years. 

"Knowing that I was, and still am, part of a wide circle of people, with the same views, has been very strengthening." 

This has been easy for me – I only have to picture the reality of the meat/dairy industry and there is no turning back. It has been made even easier by all of the lovely vegans that I got to know and am still friends with. Knowing that I was, and still am, part of a wide circle of people, with the same views, has been very strengthening.

I have sometimes had adverse comments from family members, which can be upsetting at the time, but I do not allow them to affect me too much.

Barbara's Story

My vegan journey started on a plane. I commented to the lady sitting next to me that her meal looked much more appetising than what I had been presented with. For the rest of the flight she spoke with me about why she was a vegetarian. As soon as I could I joined the local group in Northampton. I was inspired by what I learned and became completely vegan within a couple of weeks. I realise that it is wiser to make a more gradual transition, but in my case everything was fine. 

I’ve now been promoting and helping others move towards veganism for over 35 years. My partner, Harry, and I restarted the Birmingham Vegetarians and Vegans, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary. On the fourth Tuesday of each month we have a speaker or cookery demonstration. There is now a team of people who arrange the various activities, including meals out.

"I’ve now been promoting and helping others move towards veganism for over 35 years."  

In early 2007, Harry and I were both involved with the team preparing 21 Hylton Street before The Vegan Society relocated there. We spent months helping out, initially dealing with the rubble as internal dividing walls came down. I helped to transport the broken breeze blocks to the nearest tip in my van. Harry engraved a name plate to go outside the front door.

I keep in regular contact with the team; I collect kitchen waste regularly for home composting from this building, which is now proudly called Donald Watson House.

Peter's Story

I am 79 years old, and I am a vegan. I became vegetarian about 50 years ago. I was involved with the British Youth Vegetarian Movement, and helped them send out their regular magazine. I also went on holiday with them to a disused railway carriage in South Wales. I also remember the vegan restaurant in Leicester Square in London which was where I first came across vegetarianism. 

"I strongly believe in the benefits of a vegan diet. More people should know about the health benefits of eating this way." 

I became a vegan at that time and remember an annual event with stalls at Kensington Town Hall in London around Christmas time. It was an exciting, life-changing time for me when, as a result of going vegan, my health improved in mental, emotional, psychological, spiritual and physical ways.

My way of life changed and my mother thought I had gone mad. I reasoned that provided I stayed a vegan I would be all right. I started a career in finance, passing more exams than I ever did at school.

I strongly believe in the medical and psychological benefits of a vegan diet, and believe that more people should know about the health benefits of eating this way.

Margaret's Story

At the age of 10, I became a vegetarian, and a vegan at age 40. I celebrated my 73rd birthday in June 2014.

I am very happy to remain a vegan. It makes me sad, when I’m on a train and I pass farmed animals – all of which will be slaughtered.

"I lost weight and my health improved when I became vegan. I don’t look my age, either – most people think I’m about 60!" 

Finding alternatives to leather shoes and handbags is something I enjoy, as well as going to whole foods and specialist veggie friendly shops and restaurants. I sometimes eat in restaurants with a vegetarian Buddhist friend of mine.

I put a vegan card on our noticeboard. That encouraged at least two neighbours to become vegans.

More criticism came my way when I was a vegetarian than when I became a vegan at the age of 40. Now, I’m nearly 72. I tell people (who are interested) that I lost weight and my health improved when I became a vegan. I don’t look my age, either – most people think I’m about 60!