In November 1944, Donald Watson called a meeting with five other non-dairy vegetarians, including Elsie Shrigley, to discuss non-dairy vegetarian diets and lifestyles. Though many held similar views at the time, these six pioneers were the first to actively found a new movement, despite opposition. The group felt a new word was required to describe them; something more concise than ‘non-dairy vegetarians’. They settled on ‘vegan’, containing the first three and last two letters of ‘vegetarian’. In the words of Donald Watson, it marked “the beginning and end of vegetarian.” Thus, The Vegan Society was born.
The Vegan Society inspired other groups and vegan societies worldwide, and today, the vegan movement is truly global and becoming mainstream.
Ending the exploitation of non-human animals was and remains the main aim of The Vegan Society. Non-human animals are sentient beings with an interest not to be harmed for human purposes. The Vegan Society founders and members were also early pioneers in promoting the benefits of veganism for the planet and for humankind. Terms such as global food security, sustainable diets and ecological public health were not yet in use in the first few decades of The Vegan Society’s existence, but the ideas that we need to tread lightly on the earth, not waste food and consume wholesome vegetable and fruit-based diets were already being discussed and spread from the 1940s.
Seventy years on, The Vegan Society has made great strides in becoming a strong voice in the public food debate, and the society has helped hundreds of thousands of people with advice and guidance on trying and maintaining healthy vegan living. The society registers and issues the international vegan trademark to vegan products that meet strict criteria. The trademark, a symbol that consumers can trust, is displayed on over 16,000 products worldwide.
A new strategy was developed in 2013 including a clear charity brand and similar sub-brands to allow continued affiliation with supporters and volunteers. The society also changed the language and images used, to focus on positive solutions, increasing the chances of successful human behaviour change. A new website was launched in April 2014, followed by a successful, cutting edge public awareness campaign: Love Vegan.
Membership increased by 20% since 2011, donations, sales and TM income have substantially increased, and The Vegan Society has received well over ten times the media and PR coverage typically received in previous years.
The Vegan Society works in strategic partnership with similar organisations, such as caterers’ organisations, health organisations, environmental and animal advocacy groups, and a research advisory committee, to effectively spread the message. The society helps individuals in their transition to going vegan and advocates for vegans in vulnerable situations such as in care homes or prisons. The society also works to improve the environment for vegans. This includes, for example, expanding vegan options on menus in public and private catering establishments; implementation of relevant legislation such as the Equality Act; working with policy and decision makers to consider stock-free crop growing methods, investing in horticulture, and offering plant-based milks in schools; and influencing the media and public opinion through blogs, PR and media interviews.
Support The Vegan Society in a number of ways, from regular donations to volunteering or ‘Speaking out’, which includes advocating alongside The Vegan Society in campaigns and influencing decision makers. Join the growing vegan movement today, and help save the lives of thousands of non-human animals.
If you would like to help The Vegan Society then why not consider raising sponsorship while you take part in Veganuary. Click here to set up a Just Giving page.