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Both a philosophy and a way of life, the vegan movement was founded in England in the 1940s by Donald Watson, Elsie Shrigley, and others who believed that it was wrong to use and kill animals for human purposes, and that people of conscience were therefore morally obliged not to take part in harming animals. Vegans resolve not to use and consume animal products for food, clothing, or any other purpose. To practice veganism, as Watson understood it, was to become a conscientious objector to the violence and injustice done to billions of animals every day all over the world.

Starting with Donald Watson (who was productive up until his death at the age of 95), vegans have also discovered that eating a diet free of animal products is conducive to excellent health. In recent decades, the vegan diet has been scientifically demonstrated to be extremely resource- and energy-efficient, and is the only viable method known for sustainably providing a healthy diet for 7 billion humans. Notably, the charter of the Vegan Society anticipated by several decades the mindset of the modern environmental movement. "Veganism remembers man's responsibility to the earth and its resources and seeks to bring about a healthy soil and plant kingdom and a proper use of the materials of the earth."

Common confusion: Some animal advocates propagating the humane myth tend to promote the idea that veganism is simply a lifestyle choice, not a matter of conscience. This ignores the origins of the vegan movement, which was steeped in questions of social justice.

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