Tag Archives: Vegan Philosophy

Vegan Origins


This ‘festive’ edition of the Vegan Society’s quarterly magazine was published in December 1989.  I am guessing that this edition is now long since out of print, so to summarise what was in it, the 1989 AGM Report; an article entitled ‘Animals-in-law’ summarising their legal status; a ‘Cookless Cuisine’ article on ‘raw foods’; several recipes on the centre pages; a couple of articles on pregnancy and one on acupuncture; two travel articles on visiting Egypt (though why I don’t know as it would have been way beyond the budget of most of the readership); a noticeboard with events and local groups; book reviews; classifieds, as you’d expect; news featuring various snippets from the mainstream media submitted by readers; and the feature below written by Vegan Society founder Donald Watson on the society’s origins.  I don’t have a pdf writer so I’ve photographed it and had to shrink it to such a size that WordPress would upload it.  So I hope that it is legible enough to read (note that it is better viewed using WordPress Reader as the image reproduces bigger).


I cannot recall seeing any previous editions on sale, which is why I do not have earlier parts of this column on the Vegan Society’s origins in order to post on here.  There are different reasons why different people may adopt a vegan diet and broaden into non-dietary issues: the most common is usually a combination of ethics and health, for some people ecology is a reason, for others there may also be esoteric reasons.  When the article was published, obesity was not as common as it is now and when the Vegan Society was founded 45 years previously, it would have been rare given the food rationing that existed during the 1940’s.  The article does raise the issue of whether it is fair to propose a diet which could be restrictive at a time when the population was already experiencing a restrictive diet, or would a vegan diet have been easier then for people to adapt to?  Reading the article it would be nice to travel back in time and meet not just Donald Watson, but the people that he mentions (and to get a train from Leicester to London and back for five bob).

This article forms part of my hypothesis that the vegan movement is sociologically a development of English non-conformism (as was the vegetarian movement before it), though in a secular, rather than a religious, sense.   From the article, the first public vegan meal was held in Coventry, a city with a dissenting tradition and which later (in 1973) gave birth to the Ecology Party.

At the time of this edition’s publication during the Winter of 1989/90, Generation Snowflake had yet to be conceived, so in no part of the magazine was there any of the Newspeak nonsense of ‘intersectionality’ or ‘safe spaces’ peddled by some idiots who have tried attaching them to veganism in recent years.

Of the news articles, here’s one that shows how times have changed:

As predicted in the Spring 1989 Vegan, gelatine-free photography is now a reality.  The Canon Ion Camera is in the shops for about £500.  Instead of using film it uses a two-inch floppy disk similar to those used in computers.  Immediately after pictures are taken, the camera is plugged into the aerial socket of a TV and the pictures appear on the screen.  No processing is required and the 50-image capacity £5 floppies can be erased and re-used an almost indefinite number of times.  Although not intended to produce prints, this is now possible using desktop publishing systems.  Meanwhile, Toshiba and Fuji have joined forces to produce the IC Memory Card which uses a card containing 18 individual 1-megabit chips.  Its makers claim that the resulting pictures are superior to those produced by the Canon Ion.  Retailing at around £2,000, the IC Memory Card will be available by Christmas.

Sources: Daily Telegraph 29.9.89 and New Scientist 11.11.89

Oh and if you are curious, I bought this magazine when visiting Durham from a shop called Earthcare, which was located in Saddler Street, but which has long since closed down.  It was a non-food shop, which sold various ‘green’ and esoteric ‘new age’ type publications; postcards, stationery and possibly a small range of household ‘green’ stuff.  I recall buying one of those big cubes of olive oil soap, which were too big to use and difficult to cut even with a bread knife.  Back then, a few minutes walk away in New Elvet, there was a wholefood shop, also run as a workers’ co-op, called Maggie’s Farm (named after the Bob Dylan song presumably).  The North East of England was pretty good back then as there were four vegetarian restaurants (including The Red Herring) in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, as well as the Beanpot wholefood shop at the bottom of Westgate Hill.


Vegan Philosophy

This is slightly edited for grammatical tense from something which I originally posted just over four months ago, but deleted as part of a process of winding this blog down.  (I deleted the subsequent post as well, as it was too autobiographical).  I am reposting this because there is something else I intend to publish on here before the end of this year dealing with the origins of the vegan movement.vegan

The world’s first vegetarian society was founded in Manchester, England in the mid-19th Century.  Nearly a century later and also in England, it was from within the Leicester Vegetarian Society that the world’s first vegan society was founded.  Vegan ethics developed out of a long tradition of English radicalism dating back to the Lollards and the Levellers; through Thomas Paine and William Wilberforce to Donald Watson.  It should be no surprise that vegan ethics have been most receptive in those countries with the same tradition, broadly speaking most of the Anglosphere.

As I mentioned on this blog when exposing the fake libertarians who continually attack vegans, these fake libertarians do so because they are too ignorant to realise that the reason that so many people adopt vegan ethics is because they are non-conformists, free thinkers, who are willing to challenge social and political orthodoxies.  Within ‘Western’ societies one of the greatest orthodoxies is that animals are nothing more than industrial production units.  Donald Watson challenged this and his views have been adopted by people who have similarly radical views.

Such radical views can only flourish in those societies where dissent is tolerated, where freedom of speech is encouraged.  This is not the case in the ‘European Union’, which is by stealth becoming increasingly totalitarian, not in a military sense, but in a more subtle one, gradually outlawing any criticism of it.  There ought to be a greater awareness of and opposition to this in those continental European countries which experienced fascist or communist governments during the last century, but most of the populations there are sleepwalking, believing that they can ‘reform’ what no longer can be.

All of which is a way of saying that in our long overdue referendum, I voted for Brexit.  Britain leaving the EU will not in itself mean an end to subsidies of the meat, dairy and poultry industries, but it should allow political debate on these to be opened up within our Parliament.  Any ‘debate’ in a parliament without legislative powers is meaningless.  It should also mean there will be a greater chance of banning live animal exports to continental Europe; such a ban can never happen within the EU where such exports are considered as merely commodity transfers from one state to another.

However this isn’t an argument for English or British isolationism.  I am a great supporter in the principal of international co-operation, but why should our relationships with countries outside of Europe be defined by a political project which is seeking to create an artificial and conformist ‘European’ identity, one which seeks to eradicate the tradition mentioned in the first paragraph?  The Vegan Society was founded at a time when Britain stood alone in Europe against fascism; that it was allowed to exist is because freedom of expression was and still is valued here.

If we remain within the EU we will find ourselves trapped in a superstate, where dissent will be eradicated, where criticism of any of its foundation stones, such as the Common Agricultural Policy, detailed in this blog post, will not be tolerated.  Brexit should be the first step in dismantling the EU and with it the CAP, restoring democracy and with it the chance of radical change, to national parliaments throughout Europe.  I feel very strongly about this, I am well into middle age and I had never, to date, been allowed a vote on Britain being within the EU.

Anti-Vegan Fake Libertarians

I read quite a few libertarian blogs, not that I necessarily agree with everything in them, but I do feel that the state should exist to serve the people, not the other way round (one reason among several why I loathe the EU).  The most common feature of libertarianism is that people should be free to choose how to live their lives, as long as their lifestyle doesn’t infringe on the rights of others.  Libertarians rarely extend this principal to include animals, which is why a lot of the gun lobby consider themselves to be ‘libertarians’; they must also believe that retaining the ‘right’ to shoot other people to pieces does not infringe on the rights of those other people.

Rarely do any libertarian bloggers make any reference to vegans or veganism because to them, it is just another lifestyle, which they could if they choose, wish to adopt.  OK, fair enough, genuine libertarians are open-minded and intelligent people, so they may be receptive to discussion on vegan ethics as long as we are willing to listen to their side of the debate.   They could share Richard Dawkins’ views that veganism is something to aspire to, that humans should try to move towards, without taking an absolutist position of screaming murder at all those who have been brought up to eat meat.  Unfortunately, some vegans do like to scream murder at other people and in doing so, become perfect fodder for the fake libertarians, the anti-vegans.

pjw ls

The two internet personae who have become the most well-known in this regard are Paul Joseph Watson and Lauren Southern.  With his tousled hair and designer stubble, which went out of fashion with Miami Vice, PJW has become a northern, ‘conservative’ version of Russell Brand, making a media career out of ranting at ‘SJW’s’ (an ‘SJW’ apparently being anyone who disagrees with PJW).  Some of his videos are entertaining, though he has become a cheerleader for the American Establishment stooge who pretends not to be, whom he once labelled as a ‘Hillary Plant’.  Think of Rush Limbaugh with a South Yorkshire accent removed of any of the ‘ey up cocker’ charm and you get the idea.  PJW never rants about the taxpayer subsidies that go to the meat, dairy and poultry industries, because opposing those taxpayer subsidies would be too libertarian for him.

Southern initially made a name for herself by challenging some ‘slut-walkers’ in her home town of Vancouver with the obvious, that in a genuine rape culture a ‘slut-walk’ would be impossible.  Feminists are not all ‘slut-walkers’, many must view such things as ridiculous, products of the politically confused millennial generation.  Southern however falls into the same trap as Watson, as viewing everyone who disagrees with her as falling into a one-dimensional stereotype with certain ‘SJW’ tastes.  So because some ‘SJW’s’ are – or claim to be – vegan then, in the Watson/Southern world-view, all vegans are Millie Tant style screaming harpies.  Except that the vast majority of us aren’t, nor are most of us politically aligned.  Most vegans I know or have met in the past are open-minded intelligent people, which is precisely whey they have adopted vegan ethics in the first place.

Fitting in with the libertarian outlook, most libertarians want to reduce to role of the state.  Many oppose publicly-funded health care.  I don’t share these views as I support us having a taxpayer-funded National Health Service, from the cradle to the grave.  I do however believe that people should take some responsibility for their health and in that, those who adopt a vegan diet are considerably less likely to be obese, to suffer from coronary heart disease and illnesses of affluence, such as gout, which is making a comeback in developed countries.  A healthy vegan diet is also dirt cheap, so doesn’t require any amount of elitism to follow.  Genuine libertarians would recognise this, even if they choose not to adopt it.  From a purely health perspective therefore, ranting about vegans is pathetic.  It is ironic that these supposed ‘libertarians’ feel threatened by some of the people who are least likely to require the taxpayer-funded health care, the provision of which they disagree with in the first place.


Veganism and Ecology


Unless you were born into the landed gentry (and I certainly wasn’t) then the chances are that a great many of your forebears were tenant farmers or agricultural labourers, who would have depended on animals to carry out manually intensive tasks, tasks which have now been mechanised by technological advances.  Similarly, previous generations would have depended on animal skins to provide them with clothing and footwear, but the availability of good quality synthetic materials means this is no longer necessary; although leather is still widely worn, there is no need for it to be.

Being vegan in more than just a dietary sense is now easier than it ever has been and this is due to technological progress.  The petrol-driven internal combustion engine replaced the horse-drawn stagecoach, though one could put up a reasonable argument that the latter is actually more environmentally-friendly in cities suffering the effects of traffic pollution.  Nylon was developed as a replacement for silk, acrylic fibres were developed as replacements for wool (as I type this I am wearing an acrylic jumper) and PVC is sometimes used in clothing as an alternative for leather.

However vegans who consider themselves to be ecologists might face a certain dilemma in using modern materials which are by-products of industrial processes.  By the same token, some ecologists (including possibly some dietary vegetarians) might argue that animals and their products are natural renewable resources which humans have exploited since the year dot and should continue to do so.  The fur industry has been using this argument, particularly in relation to the lifestyles of the indigenous (First Nations) peoples of Canada, with whom the first European colonists traded.

Although there is a very good ecological argument for a vegan diet in terms of the volume of food that can be sourced from the same area of land, one needs to be wary that there are also ecological arguments that can be used against veganism (ie in favour of exploiting animals for their skins and/or their labour).  I am not going to back up the latter arguments, but I think that it is important that vegans do not succumb to the backward-looking world view held by most in the ‘green’ movement, who are possessed of a ridiculously romanticised vision of pre-industrial society.

To me the vegan ethos, veganism, the vegan movement, as it were, is a forward-looking world view.  We don’t need to exploit animals as our forebears would have needed to, so there is no excuse for doing so.  There are environmental compromises in every form of clothing or transport in terms of the source materials and production and we just have to live with them.  It doesn’t trouble my conscience wearing a material which is a by-product of the petrochemical industry or my driving a petrol-fuelled car. I am comfortable with technological advance and I don’t want a pre-industrial standard of living.