A History of Veganism From Its Origins to the Present Day

history of veganism

If you’re interested in the history of veganism, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, we will explore the origins of veganism and discuss how it has evolved. We will also take a look at some of the most influential figures in history and examine their impact on the movement. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Who were the first vegans?

A sign on a city street

The history of veganism is often traced back to the ancient Indian philosopher and religious teacher Mahavira. Mahavira was a member of the Jain tradition, and he advocated for ahimsa or nonviolence. This included refraining from harming animals, and many believe that this is where the idea of veganism first originated.

It is important to note that there is some debate about whether or not Mahavira was the first vegan. Some believe that the concept of veganism can be traced back even further, to Pythagoras. Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher who lived in the sixth century BCE. He believed in reincarnation and taught that humans could come back as animals after they died. As a result, he advocated for ahimsa and encouraged his followers to refrain from eating meat or harming animals in any way.

While there is no definitive answer as to who was the first vegan, it is clear that the idea of veganism has been around for centuries. So how did veganism evolve? Let’s take a look.

19th century onwards

A plate of food

In 1806, the word “vegetarian” was coined by the founders of the Vegetarian Society in Manchester, England. The term “vegan” would not be coined until 1944 by Donald Watson. At this time, vegans were defined as those who abstained from all animal products, including eggs and dairy.

The history in the United States can be traced back to 1816, when William Cowherd, a minister from England, founded The Bible Christian Church. This church promoted a plant-based diet as a way of following Jesus Christ’s example. In the late 1800s, several vegetarian societies were founded in the US.

It was during this time that veganism began to gain traction as a political movement. In 1924, the first animal welfare organization in the United States was founded: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). This organization advocated for the kinder treatment of animals and helped to raise awareness about animal cruelty.

20th century onwards

In 1951, British philosopher and author Bertrand Russell wrote an essay entitled “In Praise of Idleness.” In this essay, Russell argued that humans should work less and enjoy life more. He also advocated for a plant-based diet, as he believed it to be healthier and more humane.

This essay was influential in the development of veganism as a political movement. In the 1960s and 1970s, several books were published that promoted veganism as a way of life. These books included Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé and Animal Liberation by Peter Singer.

21st century onwards

Whether you’re interested in the history of veganism or you’re considering going vegan yourself, there’s no doubt that this way of life is here to stay. Today, veganism is more popular than ever before. According to a recent survey, about six percent of Americans identify as vegans. This is a significant increase from previous years, and the number of vegans will likely continue to grow in the years to come.

There are many reasons why people choose to go vegan. Some do it for health reasons, while others do it for ethical or environmental reasons. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that veganism is here to stay.


The history of veganism is long and complex, with roots that can be traced back centuries. Today, veganism is more popular than ever, with people choosing to go vegan for a variety of reasons. Whether you’re interested in the history of veganism or you’re considering going vegan yourself, there’s no doubt that this way of life is here to stay. Thanks for reading!

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