From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaDonald Watson
(2 September 1910 – 16 November 2005) was founder of the Vegan Society
and inventor of the word vegan
Watson was born in Mexborough
, into a non-vegetarian family.
His journey to veganism
began when he was very young, at the farm of his Uncle George. There, he says:
|“||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. Thesheep "gave" wool. I could never understand what the pigs "gave", but they seemed such friendly creatures - always glad to see me.||”|
He realised what purpose the pigs served when he saw one slaughtered, and his life was changed
. At the age of 14, he became a vegetarian
as a New Year
's resolution, and in the 1940s, after learning about milk production, he became a vegan
In 1944 he and some friends founded the Vegan Society
. Someone in the group would have come up with a word to describe their diets, he believes, but he suggested "vegan", using the first three and last two letters of "vegetarian". It was "the beginning and end of vegetarian", and it stuck.
At the age of 95, Watson died in his home in northern England.
The son of a headmaster
in a mining community of Yorkshire
, he was born into an environment in which vegetarianism
, let alone veganism, was unknown.
Donald's parents, however, encouraged and supported their three children in determining their own paths in life, a liberal approach which enabled Donald to formulate ideas which were both challenging and controversial. He held his parents in great esteem, and often expressed his gratitude for their wisdom in accepting, if not understanding, his philosophy.
An obviously sensitive young man, Donald responded to the harshness and brutality of much which he observed in the industrial and farming community in which he grew up early last century, and he developed a great reverence for and in-depth knowledge of the countryside. An acute observer of the natural order, this throughout life became his inspiration and guide, and led him to question man's place in nature and his relationship with other species.
He became a vegetarian
at the age of fourteen, although he knew of no others who followed this precept. A self-critical and free thinker, throughout his life he always responded to his inner convictions, regardless of any personal inconvenience or difficulties which this might entail
He was a quiet, strong-minded perfectionist, an abstemious man – teetotaller
and non-smoker – who tried to avoid contact with any foods or substances which he regarded as ‘toxins
’. Never one to criticise others, he himself never felt that his way of life demanded any personal sacrifice; rather, he puzzled at the risks, as he perceived them, which others took so readily.
On leaving school at the age of fifteen, he became apprenticed to a family joinery firm where he perfected the skills necessary to continue a life-long love of working with wood, later (from the age of twenty) becoming a teacher of this subject
. He taught in Leicester
, where he also played a large part in the Leicester Vegetarian
Society, and later in Keswick, where he was able to enjoy his love of fell-walking
and organic vegetable gardening
until very shortly before his death.
From his early conversion to vegetarianism
, he later came to view the abstention from the use of all animal products as the logical extension of this philosophy. A committed pacifist
throughout his life, he registered as a conscientious objector
in the war, and faced the harshest challenges to his ethical position
. It was at this time that the need for a word to describe his way of life, and a society to promote its ideals, became apparent; together with his wife, Dorothy, they decided on the word ‘vegan
’ by taking the first three and last two letters of "vegetarian
," - "because veganism
starts with vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion," and the Society was founded in 1944
Donald ran this single-handed for two years, writing and duplicating the newsletter, and responding to the increasing volume of correspondence
. From these early beginnings, more than sixty years ago, the worldwide movement which exists today developed, with the word "vegan
" appearing with increasing frequency on food labelling
and restaurant menus.
Donald continued his life quietly in Keswick
where he taught for twenty-three years
; also working with the Cumbrian Vegetarian
Society, campaigning through the local press on matters important in his home community, and, together with his family, enjoying his love of the mountains. For several years after his retirement from teaching he devoted much time to working as a guided walks leader
. Other leisure-time activities included cycling, photography and playing the violin, and while not a party political supporter, he took a keen interest in political issues throughout his life
He never sought any recognition for his early work in founding the Vegan Society, and indeed actively shunned the limelight, concerned only that his vision for a more compassionate way of life in harmony with the natural order
should take root and grow. He was concerned to confound his many critics
who claimed that he could not survive on his proposed diet by proving that he would not only survive but survive well and free from the need for doctors’ interventions until his final days
Within the last ten years of his life he climbed many of the major peaks of the Lake District
. He viewed his home and garden in Keswick
as his ‘little piece of heaven
’, and died peacefully there, with his family with him, on 16 November 2005.