Veganism in England


1 Introduction

In the last few years many people have tended to give up eating meat and become vegetarian because there where so many scandals meat was involved in , like the hormon scandal , the cruelty of mass animal husbandry or the latest , the mad - cow - disease . That is a reason why a great number of people began to think about their meat consumption and started to analyze their eating behaviours . But for a small part of these people it isn’t just enough to stop consuming meat and fish , they don’t eat or use any kind of product that is made out of animals , like meat , fish , leather or fur , or out of their exploitation , for example milk and other dairy products , eggs , honey , silk or wool . These people also try to boycott circusses and zoos or firms that do vivisection , etc. They call themselves VEGANS . They are often seen as a bunch of radicals or as a kind of sect who have more feelings for animals than for humans. I have been calling myself vegan since two and half years , so I want to try to clear up these prejudices and to show reasons for the vegan lifestyle , and since Britain is the motherland of veganism I am going to examine history and today’s situation of the vegan attitude in this country .

2 Reasons for a vegan lifestyle

2.1 Why vegan ?

When asked by not really involved people , why consistent vegetarians choose a vegan diet , they normally respond that there are four kinds of reasons : ethical , ecological and biological and reasons of health .

2.2 Ethical reasons

For the biggest percentage of all vegans the ethical reasons are the most important .

Although drinking milk and producing milk doesn‘t kill the cow directly , there are some arguments that make milk not even look vegetarian 1. To make the profit as high as possible cows are held in prisonlike milkfactories for their whole life . In order to keep the milk floating cows have to be artificially inseminated , so that their udders are constantly full of milk because , against all rumors , cows are only able to give milk when they are pregnant or have born a calf . The calf is taken away from its mother (in 75 to 80% of all cases) after two or three days to end two weeks later as "delicious" veal (60-70% of veal in the UK originates from the dairy industry ( App.1) . After the calf is gone the cow is inseminated again and the whole process repeats itself . Because of this cruelty to cows and calves vegans don’t consume any milk or milk products .

Eggs are as well boycotted by vegans because of the battery cage egg- production.

In the UK there are about 32 million laying hens and 28 millions of these hens are imprisoned in battery cages to maximize the profit . The hens are put into the battery cages at the age of 18 weeks , the time when they start laying eggs . These cages have a sloping wire floor and their measures are normally 46cm x 51 cm , while a hen has the wingspan of ca.81 cm (App. 2) . Normally five of them are put in one cage . Since hens are normally very active and lively creatures , boredom , depression and frustration are normal psychic disorders during their lifelong confinement . The consequence is an extreme stress situation that leads to feather pecking . Most battery hens get nearly naked due to feather pecking and rubbing up against the cage bars . Other physical damages are severe foot deformities and claw damages due to sloping wire floors or brittle bones that easily break because of the lack of daylight . Diseases are as well wide spread among battery hens : although there is a routine use of antibiotics many hens suffer from illnesses like liver and kidney disorders , prolapses , infectious bronchitis , egg-peritonitis , impacted eggs , brittle bones , different types of cancer and salmonella . (Salmonella can also be transmitted to humans through eggs ! ) Since the battery cage systems are extremely overcrowded ill hens are normally not noticed .

Statistics point out that two million hens die annually in their cages . Because of these extreme conditions the life expectancy of a hen is reduced from ten years down to ca. 15 months . In this age they are called ‘spent ‘ or ‘end-of-lay-hens‘, and , to maximize the profit , they are directly put to slaughter and since vegans don’t want any creature to die for their eating behaviours , it is not ethical justifiable for them to use eggs as food .

A ‘pro-egg‘ statement by many vegetarians is the free-range production of eggs , where the hens are under sunlight and able to walk around , but there are also ethical reasons that speak against it . When the chicks hatch there is an equal number of males and females , but what is done with the male ones ? Roosters aren’t able to lay eggs and are not genetically bred to fatten up quickly enough for the meat production , so that they are killed as soon as they are one day old . The methods used to kill them are very cruel and barbaric : Male chicks are put in a machine which mechanically crushes them to death ( Such a machine is able to kill 500 chicks per minute) . Other methods are drowning , decaptation , neck dislocation , decompressing , gassing and asphyxiation with car exhausts . The cheapest and one of the most painful methods is killing by suffocation , where thousands of chicks are put into sealed plastic bags , in which they suffer a slow death . Every year 32 million male chicks are killed in the UK (App. 3) as ‘by-product‘ of the egg production .

2.3 Reasons of health

Many people think of vegans as skinny , sick looking and ( physically ) weak persons , but various studies have shown that vegans using a balanced diet normally are as healthy or even healthier than a person joining an omnivore diet (a diet that contains all kinds of food , meat , dairy products and plants) . It has been proven that vegetarians/vegans don’t have to fear many modern civilization diseases , diseases that only occur in western nations due to their citizens‘ mainly animal product based diet , like heart disease , prostate cancer , breast cancer , indigestion , bowel cancer , colon cancer , asthma , arthritis , eczema, diabetes , migraine , ulcerative colitis , salmonella , chronic fatigue , muscle cramps, lactose intolerance , bronchitis , insomnia , high blood pressure , osteoporosis , high cholesterol level , gall stones , kidney stones , BSE and many more.

The clichée of the weak vegan , concerning both , muscles and fitness , is just as well a product of false , bad or superficial media research : many leading sportsmen and - women in the United Kingdom are vegans since many years , like for example the female arm wrestling world champion Kathrine Monbiot (vegan for nine years) , who is in addition an acknowledged nutrition scientist . Other famous vegan sportsmen/-women are John Boyce , a power lifter , Sally Eastall , the British number two of marathon runners , Carl Lewis , famous runner and Olympia-winner , and Andreas Cahling who is Mr International . And that you can get old and stay healthy being vegan proves George Crocker , who is 103 years old and has been a vegan for 78 years.

It is often said that vegans suffer from malnutrition , because of the lack of certain important food elements , like calcium , protein and vitamin B12 . It can’t be denied that Vitamin B12 is almost exclusivly found in animal products . But it can also be found in fermented soy products like Tempeh , Miso and Shoyu and in dried figs , pecan-nuts , barley-malt , parsley , leaven and sprouts of every kind.

These plants are considered to contain enough vitamin B12 for the average vegan . Furthermore , there are some hints , that seem to prove that bacterial processes in the human guts can produce B12 so that the body is able to produce that vitamin itself.

Another lack vegans are supposed to suffer from is the missing of protein . But the basis for protein - the (essential) amino acids - are found in many plant foods as well : All amino acids can be found in all sorts of grain , beans , nuts , rice and in many fruits 8. Against traditional believe , vegans don’t have to combine certain kinds of food in every meal to get high quality protein - if enough varying protein containing food is eaten in the course of a day , a vegan doesn’t have to suffer from too less protein.

Milk is often considered to be the main source of calcium and vegans are often supposed to have a lack of this mineral . On the contrary , there has been no report about lack of calcium at adult vegans in medicine literature . 10 There are enough plant sources of that element which can be used by vegans : sesame seeds for example contain most calcium among all kinds of food , while tofu contains four times as much of it as the milk of the cow 11. It’s a fact that vegans dont’t get as much calcium as omnivores but on the other side they don’t need as much as them : studies like for example Breslau et al.(1988) proved that animal protein leads to a bigger loss of calcium in urine while vegans don’t suffer from this loss too much. And as consequence vegans don’t need as much calcium as meat-eaters need.

All theses facts and advantages led many people to veganism , so health reasons are next to the ethical reasons the most important reasons for becoming vegan.

2.4 Ecological reasons

Ecology gets more and more important in modern society - a common sense of the wish to save nature is noticeable . But still most people can’t or don’t want to see the direct connection between their diet and their lifestyle , concerning animal products and a huge environmental damage caused by their production .

One third of the world’s land mass suffers from desertification , caused by burning down rain-forest for grazing , overgrazing and overcultivating croplands in order to feed farm animals ( as well as people ) . Since it’s obvious that cultivating plants and eating them directly is more resourceful than e. g. feeding the plants to a cow and then consuming the cow or its products . Providing nutrition , a vegan needs , compared to an omnivore , only 1/8 of the land to produce food , what means as well 1/8 desertification . So a worldwide vegan diet would not only be a more resources-orientated nutrition but would as well be better for our environment.

One third of the USA’s agriculturally used surface has been deserted so far - 85% suffered directly due to animal husbandry . The rain forest decreases every day through animal farming : In Middle America , 70% of the rain forest has been cleared for pasture , what makes animal husbandry the main reason for this damage to our environment . In Brazil , 40% of the so far cleared rain forest were destroyed for the same reason.

Besides , if people would give up eating meat , groundwater would be spoiled less , because for example in the USA cattle produce over one billion tons of organic waste , like urine , excrements and waste gasses 15 . As a consequence of this , rivers , lakes and the oceans are polluted by ammonia and nitrate , what leads to an unnatural growth of algae , because the organic waste works like a fertilizer . And the atmosphere is polluted with methane that is produced mainly by sheep and cows while their digestion . Everyone knows today about the global warming that is caused by the greenhouse-effect , but most people don’t know all reasons that lead to this catastrophy , like burning down the rain-forest to create new pastures for cattle , nitrous oxides released from artificial fertilizers and , what almost nobody knows , methane given off by farm animals. Right after carbon dioxide (CO2) methane is the most destructive greenhouse gas . Ca.30% of all methane in the air has its origin in animal husbandry.

But there are other reasons than just the destruction of nature , there are also reasons concerning the relation between the industrial states and the so called Third World.

Hunger in the Third World is another problem connected with meat and dairy production 17 , because every year about 60 million people starve to death , what is quite morbide , because on our planet food for over 12 billion humans could be produced . Most of the European grain production , 60 - 80% , are used as food in the animal - breeding industry . But this masses of animal fodder aren’t enough so , tons of grain and beans are imported from the Third World 18 . The worldwide 1.25 billion cattle , used for meat and milk production , need 25% of the world’s land surface for grazing . This is a complete waste of resources , because the food (especially grain ) you need to produce meat , milk and eggs for one ‘normal‘ eating European , could nourish 17 people in the Third World . If our comsumption of animal products would be reduced for just ten percents there would be enough food for everyone.

2.5 Biological reasons

A lot of people think of veganism as unnatural , because humanity has always been drinking milk . But if you have a closer look at it it doesn‘t look as natural as it seems to be . In the animal kindom milk is nothing else but baby-food that is drunken while childhood . After the animal child is weaned off drinking mother’s milk it will never drink milk its whole life , neither from his own species nor from another species.

Humans are the only creatures on earth who continue drinking milk after babyhood and moreover it’s milk from a different species 19 . And since mankind is (or was not too long ago) a part of nature this fact looks quite unnatural.

There are other facts as well that speak against naturality of drinking milk , for example if you look on the chemical structure of cow milk . To assimilate milk , human body needs the encymes rennine and lactase . But both can normally only be found in human bodies of children up to three years. Because of the lack of these encymes most adults don’t even posses the abilty to use milk as food properly . Furthermore , milk is often considered to be the main calcium source for humans and as necessary to build up teeth and bones correctly . But studies have proven that cow milk’s calcium is strongly connected with caseine . Caseine is only good for cows to develope big and strong bones - for humans this connection makes the absorption nearly impossible.

After being informed about this fact , the question asked by most people is : Why are humans able to drink milk if it is not predestined for them?

If we look at the animal kingdom this question can maybe be answered , because cats , apes and pigs are able to drink cow milk as well , but they just do it under extreme or unnatural conditions like loosing their mother or living with humans .

Theories now say that the human body is very "elastic" concerning food , and if you just eat milk products the body will "try to make the best out of it" , although other food would fit better.

3 What makes veganism a typical British movement

Great Britain is often called the country , where soya milk and maple syrup float and the motherland of veganism .22

"This country has a reputition for abolishing slave trades of one kind or another, so it was no surprising that veganism , which seeks to bring about the greatest emancipation of them all , should have made its roots here fifty years ago" says Donald Watson , founder of the Vegan Society in 1944.

It is also the home land of the organized vegetarianism , that has a long history in England since 1847 . Out of this movement developed the Vegan Society.

In march 1995 there were living about 100.000 adult vegans in Great Britain 25 - a developement which made it easy for the term ‘veganism‘ to have it‘s breakthrough in the common language so that nearly every Briton knows what veganism means and what it stands for .Vegetarian/vegan restaurants can be found in most bigger towns and vegan products can be found in almost every normal supermarket , while in other countries like Germany special vegan food , like tofu can hardly be found outside of a health - food store . Furthermore , vegan products in Britain are marked with a little ‘V‘ - sign (App. 4)

So it can definitly be said that the Vegan movement is typical British by tradition.

4 The Vegan Society

The ethical boycott of meat and fish seems to be the oldest form of vegetarianism/veganism . For thousands of years , people of all classes thought about the immorality of killing animals for food . Many famous people in history , from the old Greeks up to now , have been vegetarians like Phythagoras, Plutarch , Leonardo da Vinci , Mahatma Gandhi , Albert Schweizer , Albert Einstein or George Bernard Shaw 26 , just to name a few . There have always been vegetarians and vegans anywhere on Earth , but there hasn’t been any progressive developement since the founding of the vegetarian movement in 1847 . Tolstoy said once " vegetarianism is only the first step"

The second step , so to speak , was taken in November 1944 in the Attic Club , 144 High Holbron in London , where the Vegan Society was founded by Dorothy and Donald Watson (App. 5) together with Mrs W. Shrigley , Mrs G.A. Henderson , Mr A. H. Haffenden , Mr P. Spencer , Mr B. Draake and Mme Pataleewa who was only an interested customer .28 But how did it come ?

There have always been individuals , like the former mentioned George Crocker, 103 years old and vegan since 78 years , trying to live on non-animal based diet .

But the real questioning about whether to consume dairy and eggs or not , arose first in the 1930‘s and 1940‘s . First studies claimed plant protein to be as useful as animal protein and the Coventry Vegetarian Society started to spread the message that vegetarians should as well boycott dairy . Bert Jones suggested a ‘vegetal‘ diet , as he called it , for its enormous economic advantages . Furthermore the Leicester Vegetarian Society released a booklet called ‘Vegetarian Recipes Without Dairy Produce‘ . In July 1943 , The Vegetarian Messenger featured a letter from the vegan living Leslie Cross questioning vegetarians‘ dairy consume , and correspondence followed .

In March 1944 , a summary of lecture is published in The Vegetarian Messenger , given to the Leicester Vegetarian Society by Donald Watson with the title ‘Should Vegetarians Eat Dairy?‘ . Seven months later , Donald Watson and Elsie Shrigley find the consense , that there is need to co-ordinate all non-dairy vegetarians . As a consequence they ask the Vegetarian Society for a forum page in the Vegetarian Messenger , but this wasn‘t granted . Watson decides to form his own quarterly released news-sheet which will later be called ‘The Vegan News‘ . To finance the first issue he begs for money in a letter in The Vegetarian Messenger . The response to the letter are 30 letters , each containig one shilling.

As mentioned above the Vegan society forms in November 1944 : " It was a Sunday , with sunshine and a blue sky , an auspicious day for the birth of an idealistic movement " 29 . The term ‘vegan‘ (created by D. Watson and his wife) is adopted , as the meeting decides , since it sounds "short and strong" . At the end of November , the first issue of the Vegan News is published , counting 25 members so far and asking for an alternative for the term ‘vegan‘ . Suggested alternatives were ‘allvega‘ , ‘total vegetarian‘ , ‘neo-vegetarian‘ , ‘dairyban‘ , ‘vitan‘ , ‘benevore’ and bellevore‘ , but non of them made it in the common language . As a consequence to the first issue the membership rises to 48 in Winter 1944/45 .

It has been and is still one of the main aims of the Vegan Society to show that no human being needs to live by animal products . Because of this they tried to compile a trade list , the ‘Animal-Free Shopper‘ , where the products , that fitted in the ethical views of the society were published .

How serious their aims were to them could be seen on the outer circumstances .

The time of the foundation of the Vegan Society was the time near the end of World War II , where food was strictly rationed and for the vegans it was impossible to change their cheese and meat rations for vegetables or fruits , because approaches to the Ministry of Food by Donald Watson failed (App.6) . And another problem was that vegan food , besides vegetables and fruits , wasn’t spread as wide as today . You couldn’t just go to the health-store to buy tofu or other soya - based products and there haven’t been any vegetarian or even vegan restaurants . No one knew about the problem of vitamin B12 , because it hadn’t been discovered yet , and so some vegans , who were not able to produce it in their guts , became ill after some years . To fight these circumstances and to form a kind of lobby were other aims of the Vegan Society .

Furthermore , the Vegan Society wanted to educate people right from the beginning about the health dangers involved with the consumption of animal products : "With so much livestock now artificially housed and fed and medicated to control disease the resides in animal products present a [...] threat to human health" 30 . And - something that is more important than ever right now - the Vegan Society warned people in the fist printed issue of The Vegan (Spring 1946) about the dangers involved with feeding cows as if they were carnivores . Maybe the whole current discussion about BSE and the Creutzfeld-Jakob-disease could have been avoided if farmers and scientists wouldn’t have ignored this warning .

In Spring 1945 a contemporary comitee was formed that declared in its first meeting , that the Vegan Society should not only work for the abolition of all food with animal origin , but also of commodities made from animal products and as a consequence a vegan trade list featuring cruelty-free products out of daily life is issued .

A year later the first printed issue of ‘The Vegan‘ , that later becomes the main organ of the Vegan Society , is published . In 1947 the first vegan cookbook called ‘Vegan Recipes‘ by Fay K. Henderson is released , and the Vegan Baby Bureau is founded with Mrs K. V. Mayo as organizer . This bureau concentrates on "the particular needs of mothers who wish to rear families on Vegan lines". This organization is important , since there is much knowledge necessary to bring up children .

In spring 1957 a declaration about veganism is published in The Vegan :

"Veganism is the practise of living on the products of

the plant kingdom - to the exclusion of flesh , fish ,

fowl , eggs , animal milk and its derivatives - proceeding from a consideration of the following :

(a) Aspects of design in man and nature

(b) A reformed relationship of man to other creatures

(c) The most efficient use of the fertile potential of earth

(d) An enlightened concept of health

(e) The spiritual and ethical developement of man "

In 1958 The Vegan reported about a section of the Vegan society , founded in India, what showed how fast and wide the idea of veganism spread in the World.

This can also be seen on the constant growth of members : starting with 48 members in ’44 , the Society counted 409 members in ’53 .

In Spring 1972 , The Vegan featured a forum about one page called ‘Young Vegans Selection‘ for the first time . Since the Vegan Society attracted almost adults and old people , it was the aim of this page to attract younger people and to convince them of the advantages of a vegan diet . In Winter ‘74/75 , more than 200 young vegans were members of the ‘Young Vegan Selection’ .

The Vegan Society expanded its work in the following years more and more . They published books , recipe books , T-shirts , video-films covering the pain and cruelity involved with animal products , and lots of other accessoires , so that the term ‘vegan’ and the Vegan Society became common in the everyday language of Great Britain’s public life . Of course this led to higher popularity so that the Vegan Society counted 2972 active members and 100.000 adult vegans in the U. K. in1994 when the Society celebrated its 50th anniversary. 33

(App. 7 & 8)

5 Other organizations connected to veganism

In Great Britain there are many other organizations which have dedicated themselves to the animal rights movement , for example the PETA organization (PETA means People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) . PETA does - similar to the Vegan Society - mainly public work by providing information and recipes (for free!) , by putting out a magazine called ‘Animal Times’ . The organization is famous for prominent speakers in the public , so that many people who are not informed so well about it have a good access to the vegetarian/vegan movement . The PETA is also an international organization that has branches in almost every western nation , there is even a German issue of ‘Animal Times’ .

Another important role in the developement of veganism are the organizations that act directly for equality of human and animal , often in illegal ways like the Animal Liberation Front ( A.L.F. ) (App. 9 & 10) , not a real organisation like the Vegan Society , because it is more like a name , under which all kinds of animal rights activists act , than an organization , and that frees animals out of vivisection laboratories , does hunt sabotages or attacks butcheries . There is also the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group ( A.L.F.S.G. ) that doesn’t do any illegal actions , but informs about activities and demonstrations in the ‘A.L.F.S.G. Newsletter’ .They collect donations for imprisoned activists of the A.L.F. , the so called ‘Prisoners of War’ , so they can get good solicitors and better conditions . This group also offers a possibility for symphatisants of the A.L.F. who aren’t able to participate in actions , to support these actions .

The aim of many other organizations is the abolition of vivisection (tests on living animals) , because these groups claim vivisection to be completly unnecessary , since results obtained by vivisections have only a hypothetical character and are all connected with cruelty . Organizations like the ‘British Anti-Vivisection Association , the B.U.A.V. (The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection in London) , the Nurses-Anti-Vivisection Movement (Derbishire) and many others fight for laws which abolish animal-testing .

6 Comparison between the British and the German movement

The first thing I can say about the German vegan movement , is that it is 20 years behind the British movement . In Germany vegan food , like tofu or other soya products , is hardly to be found and expensive as well , and if you want vegan (non-leather) shoes you have to order them in Great Britain . Most Germans don’t even know what the term ‘vegan’ means and what veganism is about . Many people who have heard about veganism are mainly informed about it by the yellow press or television , where vegans are shown as militant radicals , vandals or even criminals , who destroy everything that doesn’t fit in their ideology . But in the last three to four years the situation changed at least a little bit , like 15 years ago it was the same situation for vegetarians , who were thought of being unhealthy and a bit of odd . Today vegetarians are wide accepted and many people think of vegetarianism as the healthier way of living although they eat meat themselves . It’s the aim of German organizations like the V.O.R. (Vegane Offensive Ruhrgebiet) , the V.A.N ( Vegane Attacke Nord) (yes , these names sound a bit pugnacious) , the ‘S.O.S. Tierrechte Hassberge’ or the ‘Autonome Vegane Aktion Bamberg ‘ to achieve the same situation for vegans in Germany . But these are just very little organizations with a few members and are hardly to compare to the big model of the Vegan Society . The problem of these organizations is , and the same applies to the whole vegan movement in Germany , that almost only young people with little influence are attracted to veganism .

7 Final thoughts

In my opinion veganism is the first step for a future-orientated , compassionate lifestyle (App. 11) . I have chosen it five years ago , when I became vegetarian and stopped eating meat and fish and when I’ve given up consuming any kind of animal-based products , one and a half year later , and became a vegan . At first most people didn’t even know what veganism , is and the most asked question was ( and still is ! ) : " What are you going to eat , then ? " , because for these people vegetables are just trimmings , that are only eaten when no piece of meat is left on the plate . Additonal , they don’t know the manifold possibilities of vegan cooking , like using soya milk or tofu . Almost every ingredient in a meal , based on animal products , can be substituted by products of plant origin , so that many meat eaters wouldn’t even recognize , that for example the hamburger , the chili or the gyros they ate didn’t contain any meat , and that the ice cream or cake didn’t have milk or eggs as ingredients .

There are others that think that vegetarianism is quite O.K. and that veganism is pure exaggeration , but for me it is the only consequent way of living my life with a clear conscience .(App. 12)

Thanks to Zistl ( for giving this one to us....