Donald Watson was a remarkable man. He co-founded the Vegan Society and first coined the word “vegan” to describe non-dairy vegetarians and produced the first copy of the Vegan News in 1944. On Saturday 9th November a blue plaque commemorating this visionary man was unveiled at his old primary school.
The plaque is commemorated at Watson’s primary school, the Doncaster Road School, now the New Pastures Primary School in Mexborough, South Yorkshire. It was unveiled by his nephew Dr Tim Cook.
The unveiling ceremony was attended by Ed Miliband MP, Deputy Civic Mayor Cllr Paul Wray and Chair of The Vegan Society Board of Trustees Menna Jones. Mr Watson’s family was also in attendance.
The reception included readings of Donald Watson’s unpublished nature diaries by Dr Kate Stewart, Principle Lecturer in Sociology at Nottingham Trent University. She plans to publish Mr Watson’s personal papers.
The Vegan Society which was founded in Holborn, London with six people present and membership of just 25 people, celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.
Donald Watson’s strong inner convictions inspired the Vegan movement
Watson has made an enormous contribution to compassion in the world. He said:
“I seem to be taking on the world virtually single-handed, with no recognised qualifications other than a conviction that, with all the conceit I can muster, I am right, and they’re all wrong!
“It’s a dangerous state of mind, but one which, sooner or later, one can’t dispel, and one has to go that way.”
The Vegan Society describes him as a “self-critical and free thinker” who “always responded to his inner convictions, regardless of any personal inconvenience or difficulties this might involve”.
Samantha Calvert, a spokeswoman for The Vegan Society, commented that :
“Donald Watson played a significant role in founding the modern vegan movement that is now this amazing worldwide movement. Veganism has never been more popular than it is today and all vegans owe a huge debt of gratitude to Donald Watson and the pioneering early members”.
Donald Watson was 95 when he died in 2005. The slaughtering of a pig on his uncle’s farm left a lasting impression on him. He began to see farm life as a death row for animals.
A vegetarian at the age of 14, Watson then became vegan in the early 1940s, having concluded that the production of milk and milk-related products was unethical.
Shortly before he died Watson recognised that “it is not every day a movement is born which in its general application could revolutionise mankind.” Donald Watson has bequeathed a powerful legacy. He would surely be proud to see how much the movement is taking root in mainstream culture today.