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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 17:41 GMT
Obituary: Donald Watson
Donald Watson
Donald Watson: Guru of veganism
As a child in Mexborough, South Yorkshire where he was born in 1910, Donald Watson used to spend time on his Uncle George's farm.

One day one of the pigs was slaughtered - Watson never forgot its screams. Suddenly the idyllic country scene with its friendly livestock was transformed into what he described as a Death Row for animals.

From that day, he became a vegetarian and remained so for the rest of his life. However, he went further by forming an organisation, which he and his wife Dorothy coined the Vegan Society, for those seeking a lifestyle totally free from animal products for the benefit of people, animals and the environment.

A vegan, therefore, eats a plant-based diet free from all animal products including milk, eggs and honey. Most vegans wear no leather, wool or silk.

The word vegan is made up from the beginning and end of the word vegetarian. According to the Vegan Society's website, the derivation of the word symbolises that veganism is at the root of vegetarianism and the logical conclusion of the vegetarian journey in pursuit of good health without the suffering or death of any animal.


Donald Watson precluded dairy products from his diet because of the way he felt dairy cows were exploited. He abhorred the way calves were removed from their mothers after a few days, and the way the cow was unnaturally fed and bred to produce more milk than she otherwise would.

Almost single-handedly, Watson edited a quarterly magazine entitled The Vegan News.

In its first edition in 1944, he wrote "The unquestionable cruelty associated with the production of dairy produce has made it clear that lacto-vegetarianism is but a half-way house between flesh-eating and a truly humane, civilised diet, and we think, therefore, that during our life on earth we should try to evolve sufficiently to make the 'full journey'.

The pioneers of veganism were apparently worried about whether they'd be able to stay healthy, although Donald Watson's longevity won't have harmed the view of this lifestyle.

Bryan Adams
Rock star Bryan Adams is a vegan
Some nutrition experts express doubts about whether a vegan diet can provide enough calcium. But the movement appears to be strong -- the Vegan Society has 4,000 members and vegans number in their millions all over the world.

Famous vegans include the poet Benjamin Zephaniah, actress Alicia Silverstone and rock star Bryan Adams. Donald Watson's brother and sister followed him into veganism and all three registered as conscientious objectors during World War II.

Watson had been an active carpenter but, during the Depression of the 1930s, trained to be a woodwork teacher.

He remained in teaching until retirement, at first in Leicestershire and then, from the 1950s, in Cumbria where he lived the rest of his life.

A lifelong teetotaller, he became well known as a guide to hikers in the Lake District. A friend, George Roger, chair of the Vegan Society, described him as "a very gentle man, quite intellectual, very knowledgeable and a very caring person."

Donald Watson was once asked what he felt was his life's greatest achievement. His reply was "Achieving what I set out to do: to feel that I was instrumental in starting a great new movement which could not only change the course of things for Humanity and the rest of Creation but alter Man's expectation of surviving for much longer on this planet."

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