Many people think us vegans are just “going through a phase” and that we’ll “grow out of it”, falsely believing it’s a modern phenomenon borne of “wokeism”, whatever that is!. But when was veganism invented? Could it be true that the philosophy is actually thousands of years old?
When Was Veganism Invented?Inventing the philosophy behind veganism began 4000 years ago as ancient Vedic scholars formed the concepts of Ahimsa and Karma. Although it wasn’t until 1944 when Donald Watson invented the word ‘Vegan’ and at last we all had something to coalesce around.
Watch: Emily from Bite Size Vegan takes it back even further!
( this is an exceptional, fact-based dive into the ancient roots of veganism )
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Vegans Among Us 4000 Years Ago?
Contrary to popular belief, veganism is not a new thing. It’s just all the more poignant these days as mass animal agriculture has quickly dominated our societies.
… and it seems the blind lust for meat shows no sign of abating any time soon.
The roots of our compassionate movement can be traced back 3000 to 4000 years ago. Possibly even earlier. It seems almost integral to our very existence in recognising the ‘divine spark’ of energy in all of us.
Just a small step from there to extend the philosophy to every living thing on our planet.
The ‘divine spark’ is a reference to the concept of Ahimsa, or non-violence. Dating back to the ancient Vedic texts of India, Ahimsa equates all life as equal and to harm others is only to harm yourself.
The concept of Ahimsa is symbiotic with the idea of Karma, which you’re probably more likely to have heard of. In simple terms … what goes around comes around.
We are all connected in this great circle of life and spiritual energy.
If you want to learn more about Ahimsa, have a read of our article: “Why Do Jains Not Eat Meat?” where we go a little deeper into the concepts.
Modern veganism embraces these concepts and we try to do our very best to minimise the harm we do to others … animal and human!
Thankfully, the two go hand in hand.
The Origins Of Modern Veganism
I was vegetarian for 20 years before going vegan and I was convinced my way of life was sufficient to completely negate the suffering of animals due to my consumer choices.
But I hadn’t thought it through and it turned out I was very wrong.
The same thought process and ethical code which leads us to vegetarianism should also, ultimately, lead us to veganism.
Vegetarians do it because they don’t want to be responsible for the slaughter of animals for their meat. Vegans simply apply this same principle to the production of dairy, eggs and other animal products.
Because all of these industries abuse and torture animals on a vast scale.
… but back to the question of when:
The British woodworker, Donald Watson, who is widely recognised as the Father of modern veganism, coined the term back in 1944 when he became distanced from the vegetarian movement.
There was no word to describe this small group of non-dairy vegetarians so Watson and others set about creating the word and developing the early vegan lifestyle which would blossom into the global movement it is today.
In the immortal words of Fat Boy Slim … “ We’ve Come a Long Long Way Together! ”
Looking Forward: A Prescription For Survival
So we can see by now that veganism is far from the latest fad and is a way of life rooted in ancient wisdom.
I’m not sure we can say the same about the carnivore movement, which shall be consigned to history as another weird, ill-fated episode in human evolution.
If our human population tops out at around the 10.5 billion mark, as expected, then we can feel supremely optimistic that feeding all those people is well within the scope of plant-based agriculture.
Growing plants for humans to eat is more efficient by far than feeding all those animals we’ve brought into the world with the sole purpose of slaughtering them or exploiting them in other ways.
There are many respected studies out there comparing plants vs animals in their capacity to nourish human beings. Plants always come out on top across all metrics.
For example, in this 2018 study  we find it concluded that replacing all animal products with plant based alternatives in the US would see a net gain of available food to feed more than 350 million extra people.
That’s more than the entire population of the USA …
Pretty profound stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.
I honestly believe veganism will be a big part of the survival of our species.
To Go Vegan Or To Be Vegan?
… that is the question 🙂
The hashtag #GoVegan is likely the most popular tag on vegan Twitter (other socials are available) and certainly has its place but I like to think that being vegan is a more worthy goal.
Rather than desiring to go vegan, we should all aspire to be vegan because that implies a much more long term and committed mind set.
I’m probably just wittering on about semantics and whether you go vegan or desire to be vegan, it’s probably one of the biggest things you can do to make a positive contribution to our shared future as an advanced civilisation.
But we will have to get past all this death and destruction first, if we’re to have any hope of making it into the next millennium.
Just consider for a moment, the amount of Karma we’re creating by slaughtering 80 billion land animals every single year … all for a moment on the lips.
80 BILLION animals …
We’ve gone around and now maybe climate change is what must “come around”.
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Thanks so much for reading and have a peaceful day.
 – Shepon A, Eshel G, Noor E, Milo R. The opportunity cost of animal based diets exceeds all food losses. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Apr 10;115(15):3804-3809. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1713820115. Epub 2018 Mar 26. PMID: 29581251; PMCID: PMC5899434.