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The History of Veganism

Veganism is a lifestyle choice that has been gaining traction recently, but its history dates back much further. Throughout the centuries, people have adopted vegan diets for various ethical, environmental, and health reasons. And as time passes, the reasons may vary, but the diet has followed the same basic principle: abstain from animal products! In this article, you will learn the history of veganism from ancient times to the present day, examining the various motivations behind this way of life. By the end, you should understand why people throughout history have chosen to exclude animal products from their diet.

The First Vegans On Record


The concept of dietary veganism goes back to ancient India, where Indian ascetics practiced it as part of their religious lifestyle. Some ancient Greek philosophers – including Pythagoras and Plutarch – have been credited with promoting vegetarian diets as far back as 500 BCE. The first known strict vegan in Western society was Dr. William Lambe, who adopted an exclusively plant-based diet due to health problems in 1806.

Lambe’s diet was a success – he reported that it cured his health issues and enabled him to live until he was 80. And while the word “veganism” wouldn’t be introduced for another 150 years, what Dr. Lambe was doing back in 1806 – only eating plants and drinking water – is exactly what most vegans do to this day.

The Creation Of The Word “Vegan”


As you just learned, many people have chosen to avoid animal products throughout history, and many of them were either referred to as vegetarians or simply ate a plant-based diet without a name for it. That was until the 1940s. The word vegan began with Donald Watson, an English animal rights advocate and environmentalist. He wanted to create a term that would represent a more humane lifestyle by abstaining from animal exploitation or cruelty – not just dietary choices.

In 1944 Watson founded the Vegan Society, and alongside his co-founders, he chose “vegan” as their label for those who followed this lifestyle. In its inception, veganism was only about diet – abstaining from all animal by-products such as meat and dairy – however, today’s definition has evolved significantly.

Veganism Through The Decades

After the 1940s, it took a bit of time for people to understand veganism. But as you will learn, the following decades brought major changes to the vegan lifestyle!



The 1960s were a time of radical change and political upheaval. But amidst the social and cultural revolutions, something else was happening: veganism was on the rise. Although vegetarianism had been around in some form for centuries, it wasn’t until the 60s that veganism began to gain traction as an ethical lifestyle choice. And while people still credit Donald Watson with coining the term “vegan,” it took decades for this idea to take hold.

In the 1960s, environmental movements such as Earth Day began to bring attention to animal rights issues; meanwhile, celebrities such as Paul McCartney helped raise awareness by publicly declaring themselves vegetarians. This combination of popular culture and activism gave veganism a platform to grow – and by 1970, there were thousands of vegans across the planet looking to spread the message.



Veganism in the 70s was a movement that was ahead of its time. It began as a lifestyle choice for those looking to promote personal health, animal rights, and environmental consciousness. As awareness around these issues increased, so did the number of people who identified as vegan in this era. In the 1970s, there wasn’t much availability for vegan food or resources – so it was up to individuals to create their own plant-based alternatives.

Popular alternative ingredients like tofu and tempeh weren’t widely known yet, but vegans made do with what they had on hand. This period marked the beginning of an entire culture dedicated to living an ethical and sustainable life through diet change alone.



The 80s marked a pivotal moment in the history of veganism as it became more widely accepted and embraced by the public. With increasing numbers of restaurants offering vegan options, celebrities advocating for animal rights, and movements like PETA gaining traction, veganism had become mainstream by the end of the decade. The 80s also saw plant-based diets as healthier alternatives to traditional meat-eating diets; this further contributed to its popularity among health-conscious consumers who wanted to make positive changes within their lifestyles.

The 80s also saw the rise of straight-edge groups like anarcho-punks pushing veganism as a way to reject the mainstream, which not only changed the way veganism was viewed and promoted but also made it a new way for young people to ditch the trappings of consumer culture.



The 90s was a decade of innovation and experimentation. No other movement better encapsulated this spirit than veganism, which gained widespread popularity in the West during this time. The rise of veganism in the 90s was largely due to increased public awareness of animal rights issues, with many celebrities and activists publicly voicing their support for ethical plant-based diets.

At the same time, there was also an explosion of creative vegan recipes as chefs and nutritionists worldwide sought to make delicious meals out of vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. From veggie burgers to mock meats to seitan steaks, there was no shortage of inventive ways to enjoy the flavors and textures associated with animal products without consuming them. This revolutionized how people thought about food and shifted many people’s views on what a healthy diet should look like.



The 2000s have seen an incredible rise in the popularity of veganism. What began as a fringe lifestyle choice has now become a mainstream dietary and lifestyle trend, with many people choosing to adopt a vegan diet for its numerous health benefits. As more people switch to veganism, it’s clear that this way of living is here to stay. With increasing awareness about the environmental impact of animal agriculture and the health benefits associated with plant-based diets, there is no denying that veganism is rising across all parts of society.

From the many influential people endorsing plant-based diets to fast food chains rolling out vegan menu items, it’s becoming easier for individuals to make informed decisions about their nutritional choices. Furthermore, innovations in food technology are making it possible for plant-based options to taste just as good, if not better!

Where Will Veganism Go From Here?


As veganism continues to grow in popularity, it is worth considering the potential impact of this dietary lifestyle on the culture and the planet. Veganism has already made a huge difference in the way many people eat and interact with food, leading to a greater appreciation for animal welfare and sustainability. But where will veganism go from here?

As a vegan, you have the power to take veganism in any direction that you choose. Will you push for more plant-based options in restaurants and supermarkets? Will you become more aggressive in your campaign against animal product industries? The options are limitless.

The History Of Veganism Is An Inspiring One!

In conclusion, the vegan community is evolving to become more inclusive and diverse. As it continues to grow, so will its definition. If history tells you anything, let it be that vegans will always find something new to be passionate about. Veganism is a lifestyle, not a diet. What started as a small group of people who abstained from consuming animal products has evolved into an inclusive movement that connects with others across the globe!