Pythagoras — This ancient Greek philosopher, mathematician (we know the theorem), and athletic coach was what we would today call a raw-food vegan. He required all his students to fast for 40 days prior to entering unknownhis school, and adhere to an “unfired,” plants-only diet after that. Until the word “vegetarian” was coined in 1815, people who avoided meat were called Pythagoreans.
Donald Watson (1910-2005) was pivotal to the emergence and early development of veganism. He became a vegetarian in 1924 after realizing that his uncle's farm was a "death row where every creature's days were numbered by the point at which it was no longer of service to human beings". Watson later joined and become a secretary of the Vegetarian Society's branch in Leicester, England. He eventually came to believe that vegetarianism was overdue for reform, and he began "corresponding with a very small number of people, scattered far and wide" who shared his concerns. In December 1943, Watson gave the presentation "Should Vegetarians Eat Dairy Produce?" at a local society meeting. One point he made during this period is that "the cow feels the loss of her calf in much the same way that a human mother would feel the loss of her child". Watson was opposed to consuming birds' eggs but they had "all but vanished" from the English market during the time of World War II, so ruminants' milk became a focus among his arguments.
In August 1944, several members of the Vegetarian Society asked that a section of its newsletter be devoted to non-dairy vegetarianism. When the request was turned down, Donald Watson, secretary of the Leicester branch, set up a new quarterly newsletter in November 1944, priced tuppence. He called it The Vegan News. He chose the word vegan himself, based on "the first three and last two letters of 'vegetarian'" because it marked, in Mr Watson's words, "the beginning and end of vegetarian", but asked his readers if they could think of anything better than vegan to stand for "non-dairy vegetarian".
The first edition attracted more than 100 letters, including from George Bernard Shaw, who resolved to give up eggs and dairy. The new Vegan Society held its first meeting in early November at the Attic Club, 144 High Holborn, London. Those in attendance were Donald Watson, Elsie B. Shrigley, Fay K. Henderson, Alfred Hy Haffenden, Paul Spencer and Bernard Drake, with Mme Pataleewa (Barbara Moore, a Russian-British engineer) observing. World Vegan Day is held every 1 November to mark the founding of the Society and the month of November is considered by the Society to be World Vegan Month.
The Vegan Society soon made clear that it rejected the use of animals for any purpose, not only in diet. In 1947 Watson wrote: "The vegan renounces it as superstitious that human life depends upon the exploitation of these creatures whose feelings are much the same as our own." From 1948 The Vegan's front page read: "Advocating living without exploitation", and in 1951 the Society published its definition of veganism as "the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals”.
The first vegan society in the United States was founded in 1948 by Catherine Nimmo and Rubin Abramowitz in California, who distributed Watson's newsletter. In 1960, H. Jay Dinshah founded the American Vegan Society (AVS), linking veganism to the concept of ahimsa, "non-harming" in Sanskrit. According to Joanne Stepaniak, the word vegan was first published independently in 1962 by the Oxford Illustrated Dictionary, defined as "a vegetarian who eats no butter, eggs, cheese, or milk.
In the 1960s and 1970s, a vegetarian food movement emerged as part of the counterculture in the United States that focused on concerns about diet, the environment, and a distrust of food producers, leading to increasing interest in organic gardening. One of the most influential vegetarian books of that time was Frances Moore Lappé's 1971 text, Diet for a Small Planet. It sold more than three million copies and suggested "getting off the top of the food chain".
The following decades saw research by a group of scientists and doctors in the United States, including physicians Dean Ornish, Caldwell Esselstyn, Neal D. Barnard, John A. McDougall, Michael Greger, and biochemist T. Colin Campbell, who argued that diets based on animal fat and animal protein, such as the Western pattern diet, were detrimental to health. They produced a series of books that recommend vegan or vegetarian diets, including McDougall's The McDougall Plan (1983), John Robbins's Diet for a New America (1987), which associated meat eating with environmental damage, and Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease (1990). In 2003 two major North American dietitians' associations indicated that well-planned vegan diets were suitable for all life stages. This was followed by the film Earthlings (2005), Campbell's The China Study (2005), Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin's Skinny Bitch (2005), Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals (2009), and the film Forks over Knives (2011)
The vegan diet became increasingly mainstream in the 2010s. The European Parliament defined the meaning of vegan for food labels in 2010, in force as of 2015. Chain restaurants began marking vegan items on their menus and supermarkets improved their selection of vegan processed food. The English Wikipedia article on veganism was viewed 73,000 times in August 2009 but 145,000 times in August 2013. Articles on veganism were viewed more during this period than articles on vegetarianism in the English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish Wikipedias. In 2016, Google searches for "vegan" increased by 90%, up from a 32% increase the previous year. The global mock-meats market increased by eighteen percent between 2005 and 2010, and in the United States by eight percent between 2012 and 2015.
In parts of Asia, several Vegan Organizations also emerged in early 2010. Vegan Society of Indonesia (VSI) was established in August 2009. The emergence of VSI which was followed by several similar organizations in neighboring countries, such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, in subsequent developments had a huge impact on veganism in Asia and even the world.