World Vegan Day was founded in 1994 by Louse Wallis – who was Chair of The Vegan Society at the time.
It was the charity’s 50th birthday year, and Wallis was inspired to create something special, to highlight vegan momentum.
She spoke to Plant Based News about her inspiration – and the impact World Vegan Day continues to have globally.
Congratulations for having the vision to create World Vegan Day. How did you get the inspiration?
We were thinking of ways to mark this milestone, and it came to me in a flash. I loved the idea of a global day of celebration – a chance to spread the love, and something positive that we could all get behind.
It’s also an occasion to pay homage to the people who coined the word ‘vegan’ (and set up the Vegan Society), the first place, back in 1944 – during a World War, and severe food rationing.
It is hard to imagine what it must have been like to literally ‘invent’ yourself as a vegan. In the 1940s, the idea of refusing to eat animal products was not only unheard of but stark raving madness. Everyone believed you would die.
So their story is truly extraordinary – and now every World Vegan Day we get to raise a toast in their honor. Respect!
Why did you choose November 1?
Well, we knew that The Vegan Society was founded in November 1944, but we didn’t know the exact date. So I suggested November 1, as this was easy to remember, and made sense culturally – with Halloween and Day of the Dead falling either side.
It’s a traditional time of year for feasting, celebrating, and for remembering forebearers, and those no longer with us – which, of course, includes animals.
How have you seen the initiative grow in recent years?
World Vegan Day has really come into its own in recent years, with themed events taking place all over the place.
November 1 2011 was particularly significant – a historic moment when World Vegan Day was formally marked in the UK Parliament, with a speech from vegan MP Kerry McCarthy.
I’ve also seen it develop in my own life. In 2015, when I ran Karamel (a vegan venue and restaurant in North London), we hosted a World Vegan Day event/fundraiser with vegan superwoman Fiona Oakes, the world record-breaking athlete who runs an animal sanctuary, and is one of my heroes.
Then in 2016, International Business Times came to Karamel on World Vegan Day to interview me.
And this year, on World Vegan Day, I’m DJ’ing at Vegan Nights, a fantastic event combining clubbing and street-food, which I’m super excited about. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to spend WVD; it’s like a dream come true.
MP Kerry McCarthy discusses World Vegan Day in Parliament
Did you expect it to become so well-known?
Yes, I expected it to grow and become well known, but maybe not quite so rapidly. It’s been incredible seeing awareness and media coverage of veganism explode in the last few years.
I’ve been vegan for 36 years and during most of those, veganism has been marginalised, so it’s breathtaking to see a major shift like this in my lifetime. And quite humbling.
What were your hopes for WVD when you started it?
My main hope was that it would be a day when being vegan could feel normal. When we’d get a glimpse of what a vegan world – the ‘new normal’ – might look like.
Also, that it would be a day to express our creativity, and have fun whilst raising awareness and busting vegan stereotypes. I’m a firm believer that we need all kinds of approaches to appeal to all kinds of people.
So whether it’s cooking for friends, screening a film, putting on a festival, creating art, organizing non-violent direct action, go for it. Play to your strengths. Ultimately, I hope World Vegan Day will become a familiar fixture on the Festival calendar (like Halloween & Day of the Dead).
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, I’ve already planned next year’s World Vegan Day.
I’m a yoga teacher as well as a DJ, and in 2019 I’m hosting a special World Vegan Day Yoga Retreat in Dorset from November 1-3.
So if you fancy coming along get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.