Veganism: What is it and where did it come from?

Mustafa Boutzamar   •   Apr 18, 2018

We’ve heard your demand for a vegan shake. And what kind of animals would we be if we didn’t listen to the wishes of our loving customers? That’s why we created our own vegan formula. A shake without any animal products.

And why wouldn’t we? The vegan lifestyle is becoming increasingly normal in western Europe. Most of us have one or two friends who chose to change their lives and not use animal products. And there is a lot to say about veganism, both the diet and lifestyle. Out of curiosity, we decided to dive into veganism. What is it and where did it come from?

For us at Lently HQ, veganism feels like something that is fairly new. Something that came to be over the course of the past few decades. Looking at how most of the vegans in our area word their motivations: Most of the times they refer to curbing animal suffering and not adding to the destruction of our environment. Or as one of our vegan friends told us:”I choose to live a more conscious life. Because it is not just about me, but also the generations to come.”

What is veganism?
According to Wikipedia, veganism has 2 parts: abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in a diet. And the philosophy of not seeing animals as a commodity. Veganism is also divided into different categories:

There’s dietary veganism: where you essentially stop eating any form of animal product. So not only no meat, but also no eggs, dairy or other animal-derived product.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


Then there’s ethical veganism: people who deter from the use of any and all animal products. Not only in diet, but they also stop using leather and bone.

And last but not least, there’s environmental veganism, which is based on the idea and philosophy that the way in which meat and other animal products are produced is unsustainable and too damaging to the environment.

The modern term ‘veganism’ was coined in 1944 and originally meant that people upheld a non-dairy diet. In 1951 the British Vegan Society changed it to refer to the doctrine of man not exploiting animals. Since 2010 veganism has seen an explosion in popularity with vegan restaurants, lunchrooms, supermarket products and so on.

But did it start there?
As old as civilization
The origin of veganism is unknown. The idea of not eating animals is as old as ancient India. The practitioners of Jainism refrained from eating animals. Indian emperors, poets, and philosophers as far back as 6000 BC chose to stop eating animal products. The ancient Greeks and Romans also had a few renowned representatives of vegetarianism, like Seneca the Younger. In the Arab world, vegetarianism was propagated by the poet Al-Ma’ari.

Most of the claims of these ancient people were based on the idea that eating animal products was unhealthy, that animal souls couldn’t transmigrate and animal welfare. They also felt that if humans deserved justice, so do animals.

Veganism in modern times
In the 19th century, vegetarianism gained popularity in England and the United States. Around 1830, diets based on the abstinence of animal products were getting more followers and around 1843 the first society was established in England. This group consisted of vegetarians and vegans. The vegans were being viewed as “extremists within the sect.”

The first vegan cookbook appeared around 1910, aptly named No animal food: two essays and 100 recipes. And in 1944 the first mention of vegan was found in a newsletter to vegetarians who chose to be lacto-vegetarians. This newsletter was called the Vegan News.

It was called this way because, according to the founder, it was the beginning and the end of the vegetarian. They asked their readers to come up with a different name, but no one had a better alternative. A few years later the Vegan News became the Vegan, and it’s tagline was “Advocating life without exploitation.”

In 1962, the Oxford Dictionary published the word ‘vegan’ for the first time. According to the scholars it meant:”A vegetarian who does not eat butter, milk, eggs or cheese.”

Through the 60’s and 70’s, a growing distrust in food production, concerns about the environment and our diet lead to the growth of interest in a vegan diet within the US. Which in turn lead to physicians and biochemists to do research on meat and animal products in our diets. Their arguments were that animal fats and animal products were detrimental to our health.

Photo by Lukas Budimaier on Unsplash

Fast forward to the ‘10’s
The interest and popularity of veganism really skyrocketed around 2010. The European Parliament started drafting definitions for labeling vegan food items. Across European capitals, vegan food shops started opening. Amsterdam and Berlin were among the first cities with vegan only shops.

Around 2015, veganism started to be something glamorous. Celebrities started adopting the diet, either full or part-time (known as flexi-vegans). Together with bloggers, vloggers, athletes and news outlets, the vegan way of life got a lot of attention. Some being intensely in favor of the diet and others against. There’s also a bunch of documentaries that deal with the topic of eating meat and the consequences. Because veganism not only affects the body but also the environment.

Just the tip
This is a very, very compact overview of how veganism came to be. Obviously, there’s a lot more out there. Scientific papers, propaganda serving both sides of the debate, ‘fake-news’-articles and what not.

Where you stand and what your view on the principle is, is up to you. We won’t judge. Oh, you wanna know what we think? Well, our views are summarized pretty well in this article, written by Trevor George on steemit.

Interested in Lently Vegan?

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