Veganism and Where the Name Vegan Comes From

Veganism and where the name Vegan came from

The “veganism” movement is growing – there’s vegan food, vegan cosmetics, vegan fashion, vegan homes and vegan hotels – more people are recognising its positive impact on health, animals and the environment.

When I learnt about  Vegan Interior Design and its focus on healthy, compassionate and sustainable interiors, I knew they were the values upon which I wanted to build my business.

I was shocked to learn that some wall paints contained animal ingredients and may have been tested on animals. I had no idea the majority of the world’s down supply comes from live-plucked ducks and geese as well as how many toxic chemicals were used on materials we put in our homes.

These are just a few examples that led me to explore healthier, sustainable and more compassionate options.

We all have our own opinions about the term “Vegan” it’s pretty controversial, so I decided to start at the beginning to find out where the name originated and what it really meant.

Where the Name Vegan Comes From

The term Vegan was coined in 1944 by six pioneers including Donald Watson and Elsie Shrigley who got together to discuss non-dairy vegetarian diets and lifestyles.

When the friends decided they needed a name to describe themselves they settled on the name Vegan – which contained the first three and last two letters of vegetarian.

So while vegetarians typically include dairy and eggs, vegans exclude these.

The same group created The Vegan Society with a vision to work towards a world where humans do not exploit animals and to promote vegan lifestyles for the benefit of animals, people and the planet.

Note, the term Vegan may be relatively new but excluding meat and dairy has been around for centuries for various ethical, health and religious reasons.

Veganism Definition

The Vegan Society defines veganism as:

“Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

Vegan Labelling

To help consumers easily identify vegan products The Vegan Society created the Vegan Trademark which was introduced in 1990.

The Vegan Trademark

97% of vegans and vegetarians look for an independent vegan verification to give them peace of mind that the products are free from any animal ingredients and have not been tested on animals.

The Vegan Society’s sunflower mark has become the most recognised and trusted label internationally.

Last month The Vegan Society registered its 50 000th product.  

The Vegan Trademark Nescafe vegan Latte
Image: ProVeg South Africa @ProVegZA

As I mentioned, I was surprised to discover how many products may contain animal ingredients – from wall paints to toothpaste.

Wanting to learn more I started doing research and got in contact with The Vegan Society, who I found to be very informative, helpful and inspiring.

They did not have an international agent for the Vegan Trademark in South Africa and asked if I would be interested. I thought it would be a great way to learn as well as make it easier for people like myself searching for vegan products.

So unexpectedly, I have officially joined The Vegan Society’s International Team and have become the South African agent for The Vegan Society’s Vegan Trademark.

If you have a vegan product and would like to know how to get The Vegan Trademark feel free to contact me. I can take you through the registration process as well as the standards required.

You can also find a lot of information on the The Vegan Society website.

Why Veganism is Growing so Fast

  • There’s a growing number of compassionate people concerned about their health, animal welfare and the environment looking for alternatives.
  • World meat production has quadrupled in the last 50 years and this unsustainable, cruel trend is contributing to deforestation, global warming, poverty, land degradation, water scarcity and species extinction.
  • A varied vegan diet requires approximately a third of the land needed for conventional Western diets and it is said that 3.5 billion people could live off the food currently fed to livestock.
  • It is predicted that by 2048 if fishing practices continue as they are there will be no fish left in the sea.
  • At the current rate of deforestation, the world’s rain forests could disappear within the next 100 years.

How South Africa is Doing

Following global trends there has been huge growth in the number of vegan alternatives in the food industry.

The South African Plate of the Nation survey conducted on 1000 South Africans ranging in income from very low to high, found that 90% of the respondents were self-proclaimed meat eaters and averaged eating meat four times a week.

In addition they found that 75% of the plate consisted of meat and starch.

This is not a healthy balanced diet according to the World Health organisation which recommends more veggies and limiting meat to 3 portions a week.

The good news is many South African farmers go to great lengths to ensure their animals live happy lives on pasture, eat a non-GMO diet, and are hormone and antibiotic free.

I have close friends who farm this way and I hope these farmers benefit as consumers become more discerning.

One of the most uplifting stories during the lockdown was how a group of Durban homeless people turned a vacant lot into an urban garden; growing vegetables to eat and earn a living.

In the area of cosmetics and personal care there has also been a big increase in vegan products.

Vegan Interior Design is still new in South Africa, this is an exciting movement which I will share more about in future posts.

Something to look forward to is the very first Vegan & Plant Powered Show to be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from the 27-29 May 2022.

In conclusion the name vegan encompasses health, wellness, animal welfare, cruelty-free, ethics, sustainability and the environment.

There is no such thing as the perfect vegan and there’s a lot to learn. I am so excited to be on this journey in helping to create a healthier, more compassionate and sustainable future.

8 thoughts on “Veganism and Where the Name Vegan Comes From”

  1. Thanks so much for this, Anne. As you said, there is always more to learn, more to do to help in any small way to improve our lives, the lives of animals and this planet!

  2. Well researched Anne, a very interesting read. I will read labels more carefully in future and thank you for having animal welfare in the forefront.

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