When Did Veganism Start: A Dive Into Its Origins and Timeline

Veganism, as a dietary and lifestyle choice, can be traced back to ancient times where individuals abstained from consuming animal-derived food products. However, the modern concept of veganism emerged in the mid-20th century and has since gained significant popularity. Let’s delve into the history of veganism and explore its evolution throughout the years.

The Origins of Veganism: Ancient Practices and Early Influences

In ancient civilizations, certain groups and individuals practiced abstaining from animal products for various reasons. Here are some examples:

  • Indian Influences: In India, the roots of veganism can be found in the ancient practice of Ahimsa, which advocates for non-violence towards all living beings. Followers of Jainism and some sects of Hinduism embraced plant-based diets as part of their spiritual beliefs.
  • Pythagorean Diet: The Pythagoreans, followers of philosopher Pythagoras in ancient Greece, adhered to a vegetarian diet for ethical, health, and spiritual reasons. While not entirely vegan, it laid the foundation for later movements that focused on animal welfare.
  • Religious and Philosophical Influences: Buddhism, certain sects of Christianity, and other religious and philosophical movements incorporated vegetarianism or specific dietary restrictions as part of their teachings.

The Birth of Modern Veganism: 20th Century Pioneers

The term “vegan” was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, a British animal rights advocate, who formed the Vegan Society. Veganism, as defined by Watson and his colleagues, referred to the avoidance of all animal products for ethical reasons. Let’s explore the milestones and key figures in the development of modern veganism:

  1. Donald Watson and The Vegan Society: Watson’s coining of the word “vegan” marked the establishment of veganism as a distinct movement. The Vegan Society, founded by Watson and others, aimed to promote vegan lifestyles and provide support to individuals interested in following a plant-based lifestyle. They published “The Vegan News” and worked towards creating awareness about animal rights.
  2. Animal Liberation and Activism: The 1970s witnessed a surge in animal rights activism, with publications like Peter Singer’s “Animal Liberation” advocating for ethical treatment towards animals. This period also saw the formation of animal rights organizations like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in 1980.
  3. Mainstream Recognition: Veganism gained more recognition and acceptance in the late 20th century and early 21st century. The availability of plant-based alternatives, the environmental impact of animal agriculture, and health considerations contributed to the growth of veganism.

The Impact of Veganism: A Cultural Shift and Global Movement

Over the years, veganism has expanded beyond its ethical roots and become a multifaceted movement with widespread impact. Here are some notable aspects of veganism today:

  • Culinary Evolution: The culinary world has embraced veganism, with numerous plant-based restaurants, recipes, and creative alternatives. Innovation and awareness have led to a wide range of vegan food options.
  • Health and Well-being: Many individuals choose veganism for health reasons, citing improvements in cholesterol levels, weight management, and overall well-being. The scientific community continues to investigate the potential benefits of plant-based diets.
  • Environmental Consciousness: Veganism aligns with sustainability efforts due to concerns about deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and resource consumption associated with animal agriculture. It has become a tool for reducing one’s carbon footprint.
A Timeline of Veganism
1944The term “vegan” is coined by Donald Watson.
1944The Vegan Society is founded.
1975Publication of Peter Singer’s “Animal Liberation”.
1980Formation of PETA.
PresentRapid growth of veganism and increased mainstream awareness.

Challenges and Future Directions

While veganism continues to gain traction, it is not without its challenges. Here are a few areas of focus for the vegan movement:

  • Accessibility and Affordability: Making vegan options more accessible and affordable can help promote wider adoption of plant-based lifestyles.
  • Educational Initiatives: Raising awareness about the benefits of veganism, ethical considerations, and dispelling myths can support individuals in making informed choices.
  • Industry Innovation: Continued research and development in plant-based alternatives can provide even more enticing options for those transitioning to veganism.


The roots of veganism can be traced back to ancient civilizations, but the modern movement began to take shape in the mid-20th century. Veganism is now recognized as a global phenomenon, driven by ethical, health, and environmental concerns. With increased awareness and evolving culinary options, the future of veganism holds the potential for further growth and positive impact.