By Published On: December 14, 2021Categories: Plant-Based Health & WellnessComments Off on World’s First Vegan

Did you know that the history of plant-based food does not belong to Western countries? Although the term “veganism” wasn’t used until the 1940s, the concept has its roots in ancient Indian and eastern Mediterranean societies. This lifestyle has been present in many countries around the world for thousands of years.

Every country has its unique version of a plant-based diet, with its history, influences, go-to ingredients, and delicious national dishes. Vegan cuisine and vegetarian culture are found in many countries around the world. It is influenced by the local tradition, religious beliefs, and cultural landmarks. China, Greece, India, Jamaica, and Japan are five countries with a history of veganism, and have either an ongoing plant-based movement or an up-and-coming vegan demographic.

In 1806, at the age of 41, Dr. William Lambe adopted an exclusively plant-based diet due to health problems. At the time, it was common for people to follow a “vegetable diet” and consume dairy products, but Dr. Lambe rejected these products, making him one of the first “vegans” as we know it today. Dr. Lambe wrote many works throughout his life, including some related to the health impacts of his vegan diet and that of others in a few case studies.

Abu-l-Ala al-Maarri

Abu-l-Ala al-Maarri was a celebrated Arab poet who lived in what is today Syria and Iraq. Al-Maarri was the first vegan, known in his time as moral vegetarianism. He was born in Maarra, a small town in northern Syria near Aleppo; his family was highly respected. He received a good education for his day, even though he was partially blinded by smallpox at the age of 4. When he was in his 20’s Abu-l-Ala returned to Maarra, where he lived off the fees he received from his pupils until 1010. He then moved to Baghdad, the intellectual center of Islam. But he left after 19 months because he refused to write flattering verses for those in power. This period was the turning point in his life.

Al-Maarri was recognized as an accomplished poet in the style of Al-Mutanabbi, a poet he admired. But Abu-l-Ala’s great works appear only after his visit to Baghdad. He reached his hometown to find his mother had died. This affected him immensely. It is said that afterward, he lived in a cave and adopted ascetic habits. He was nicknamed “the double prisoner” because of his blindness and seclusion. But Abu-l-Ala’s fame drew students to him, and he eventually amassed great wealth in his retreat. He is best known for two collections of poems entitled Sakt al-Zand and Luzumiyat and for many letters.

Donald Watson

In November 1944, a British woodworker named Donald Watson and his wife Dorothy held a meeting with five other non-dairy vegetarians to discuss their diets and lifestyles. These seven are considered the founders of a new movement. Rather than referring to themselves as “non-dairy vegetarians”, they adopted “vegan” as the word to refer to their diet and lifestyle. The word “vegan” was chosen as it was formed from the first three and last two letters of “vegetarian”. According to Watson, it marked “the beginning and end of vegetarianism.”

Although the term was coined in 1944, it wasn’t until as late as 1949 when Leslie J Cross noted the Society had yet to adopt a formal definition of the concept. Cross’ suggestion for a definition was “the principle of the emancipation of animals from exploitation by man.”

Looking back at the history of veganism inspires a lot of hope for the future of the movement. Veganism is becoming more mainstream. The definition of veganism has changed over the years. Since 1988, the official definition has been as follows, “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.”

Planted Table

Chef Lauren and Megan from Planted Table

Hi, we’re Chef Lauren and Megan from Planted Table.

After transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, we want to inspire others with tips, easy vegan recipes and more. Our blog features our vegan journey and recommendations on lifestyle, cooking, nutrition, travel, parenting and more.

If you live in the CA Bay Area, check out our meal delivery service, Planted Table Meals.

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