Learning the history of veganism



Veganism has become more popular in recent years but dates back to ancient times. Many people choose to become vegan to promote a more humane and healthier lifestyle.

Gabrielle Phillips, News/Editorials Editor

Over the past couple of years, many diets, food exclusions, and lifestyles have become popular in people’s attempts to become healthier. Keto, Paleo, and Whole30 are all diets that many people have sworn by. Although these may work for some, vegans swear by their lifestyle and how it has changed their lives. Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes all animal products; they primarily eat plant-based whole foods. Some do not even wear clothes that come from animal products. Although these new diets have all been created in recent times, Veganism has been around for centuries. The real question is, where did this lifestyle come from?
One of the earliest followings we now consider as a vegan diet was an Arab philosopher and poet named Al Ma’Arri who abstained from animal products based on his beliefs of animal welfare and the transmigration of souls. India has also had records of veganism dating all the way back to the fifth century BC. The ancient religion of Jainism promotes a meat-free diet. Jain vegetarianism is one of the most strict and religiously motivated diets. In Indian culture, the practice of nonviolence, or ahiṃsā, has informed meat-free living. It is present in Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
Buddhism has impacted many places such as China and Japan. Buddhism has been a leading factor in why people become vegan/vegetarian. Buddhist monks and nuns, in particular, tend to follow a strict vegetarian diet. They frequently exclude animal products, such as eggs and dairy, in addition to meat. Meat-free staples such as Tofu are used as a meat replacement in Chinese and Japanese cuisine.
In Greece, vegetarianism has been mentioned in Ancient Greek philosophy. Pythagoras, a philosopher and mathematician, believed a vegetarian diet was healthy for both body and mind. Pythagoras also believed that all living beings, including animals, had souls and could experience suffering. He believed a vegetarian diet was optimal for humans.
The Western Hemisphere did not adopt veganism until the 1900s. In 1944, a man named Donald Watson and six others created a movement to promote their lifestyle. These pioneers were the first to actively begin a new movement. They wanted a new word to describe them; their choices included dairyban, vitan, and benevore. They settled on vegan, a word that Donald Watson later described as containing the first three and last two letters of “vegetarian.”  This represented the beginning and end of vegetarianism.
Currently, veganism is getting more and more popular. Junior Kylie Karner said, “I’m much happier as a vegan, and I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I value through educating myself about the reality of the animal agriculture industry. It is not a hard diet to maintain, and you would be surprised just how many options there are. I encourage everyone to do what you can to limit the amount of animal products you consume and to be mindful of what you are supporting.” Many vegans choose this lifestyle to promote a more humane and caring world.