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A Criminally Brief History of Veganism

San Diego Street tours now offers a vegan food tour! We walk the North Park neighborhood, stopping to enjoy some of the best vegan food in all of San Diego. We discuss the history of San Diego, North Park, and veganism! It's a fun, informative, and delicious experience whether you're a vegan, vegetarian, or meat-eater. In honor of this exciting new introduction, a brief history of veganism is in order…

Tourists enjoying vegan food in San Diego

It would have been unwise to be fully vegan throughout much of history since we just didn’t have the nutritional understanding and variety of options to make it safe. Vegetarianism however can be found in many places at many times for a wide variety of reasons, and it paved the way for the vegan diet that would follow. The oldest evidence of vegetarianism dates back to 1500 BC and is found in India. India has a lot of vegetarian history for spiritual reasons: Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, all have a strong emphasis on non-violence, many practitioners extend that to animals.

Certain sects of Christianity practice vegetarianism, most notably the Seventh Day Adventists. They often cite the following from Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Others interpreted having dominion over animals as being permission and encouragement to use them for food, but Seventh Day Adventists see that as stewardship: that we’re tasked to care for animals.

Further, in Genesis 1:29: “And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”

The word “vegan” wasn’t coined until 1944. It was created by a man named Donald Watson. Donald was born in 1910 in England and spent time on his uncle’s farm as a child. He saw the rooster provided an alarm clock, the sheep provide wool — every animal provided something, but he couldn’t figure out what the pigs provided. But they always seemed happy to see him and he liked their friendly dog-like energy. Then he learned the harsh reality of what the pigs provided. Donald said the farm went from feeling like a beloved place to a death row for animals.

Donald went vegetarian as a teenager and belonged to The London Vegetarian Society as a young man, but felt like vegetarianism left too much room for exploiting and harming animals still. So he splintered off with a small group of vegetarians that were also willing to cut out eggs and dairy, and any other animal product like leather. They felt they needed a new name to differentiate themselves, so they created the Vegan Society.

Even the mainstream vegetarians of the time said the vegan diet was too extreme and that Donald would die. But he lived to be 95 years old, passing away in 2005. So if you’re reading this, your lifetime very likely overlaps with the guy who invented veganism. 2005 was the same year YouTube launched — the guy who invented veganism was alive at the same time as YouTube! It’s surprising to think about how recent of a phenomenon veganism is.

Tourists enjoying vegan food in San Diego

On our vegan food tour we get to carry the torch and enjoy the wide array of vegan options we have now. It’s incredible to think of how far this diet and lifestyle has come in less than a century. San Diego is a wonderful city to enjoy a vegan lifestyle. North Park especially has an abundance of fantastic vegan options, all within walking distance of each other. Come join us!


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