International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

History of The Vegan Society & IVU

Founded in 1944.

From the reports of the 1947 IVU Congress, held in Stonehouse, England:
- photo right: Donald Watson front row middle. His co-founder of The Vegan Society, Elsie Shrigley, was in another part of the big group photo at the 1947 vegetarian congress. Immediately behind Watson is the President of the UK Vegetarian Society.

VEGANISM (Obtainable in pamphlet form from The Vegan Society, Rydal Lodge, Ambleside, Westmorland)
Chairman: Mr. DUGALD SEMPLE (Scotland)

Mr. DONALD WATSON (Leicester), said that the vegan believed that if they were to be true emancipators of animals they must renounce absolutely their traditional and conceited attitude that they had the right to use them to serve their needs.
(for full text see:

  • Vegan Values - Fay K. Henderson (from The Vegetarian World Forum, Winter 1947) - describes the origins of the Vegan Society. This same issue carried an article by Elsie Shrigley, co-founder of The Vegan Society, but writing in her capacity as Secretary of the Croydon Vegetarian Society.
  • Should the Vegetarian Movement be Reformed? - Donald Watson, co-founder of the Vegan Society (from The Vegetarian World Forum, Spring 1948)
  • Correspondence - includes two replies to Donald Watson (from The Vegetarian World Forum, Summer 1948)
  • Donald Watson answers his critics (from The Vegetarian World Forum, Autumn 1948)

We are told that in 1948 Dr. Catherine Nimmo and Rubin Abramowitz formed a Vegan Society in California which ran until 1960, but we have no further details at this time.

From reports of the 1950 IVU Congress, held in The Netherlands:

Brief speeches were made by delegates from the countries represented. ... G. Henderson (The Vegan Society), ...

... Although not included in the programme of the Congress, Mr. G. Allan Henderson led an informal discussion on the vegan aspect of vegetarianism on the Sunday morning. ...

  • Veganism Defined - new Vegan Society rules, from the Vegetarian World Forum, Spring 1951

The available 1953 Congress records make no mention of the Vegan Society

From reports of the 1955 IVU Congress in Paris, France:

Among the official delegates in the party of seventy from Great Britain were . . . Mrs. E. Shrigley (the Vegan Society); . . .

From the 'Souvenir' book of the 1957 IVU Congress in India:

Veganism - John Heron, President, The Vegan Society London, England

right - the original caption: VEGANS IN INDIA Mr. and Mrs. D. C. Desai, on the right, with visitors to their Vegan stall at the Food Exhibition. (Bombay, now Mumbai, IVU World Vegetarian Congress, 1957)

From reports of the 1960 IVU Congress in Germany:

The following societies and organisations are now affiliated to The I.V.U. . . . The Vegan Society (listed with other UK groups)

The available 1963 Congress records make no mention of the Vegan Society.

From reports of the 1965 Congress in England:

The Business Sessions opened on Sunday morning 29 August under the Chairmanship of the President, the Marquis de St Innocent, who welcomed delegates from . . . The Vegan Society . . ..

THE ANNUAL REPORT was presented by the General Secretary and a warm welcome was given to Societies which had Affiliated since the last Congress. . . , The Vegan Society of Great Britain . . . (they were shown as members in 1960, and never added 'Great Britain' to their name, though by this time there were other vegan societies apparently causing some confusion.)

SOCIETY REPORTS: The Congress greatly appreciated the interesting reports of activities in various Member countries. . . . , Mrs Sally [Elsie?] Shrigley (The Vegan Society). . . .

From a report of the marriage of Brian Gunn-King, IVU General Secretary, August 1968:

The bridegroom was also a delegate to the International Vegetarian Congress in India (1967) for B.V.Y.M., The Vegan Society and Vegfam.

The Reception, held at The Asian Grill Indian Restaurant, following the ceremony at Brighton Registry Office, was attended by . . . representatives of The Vegan Society, . . . Of the fifty guests ten were vegans and members of The Vegan Society of G.B.

The 1969, 71, 73 and 75 IVU Congress records are incomplete and those available make no mention of the Vegan Society, though Brian Gunn-King was General Secretary throughout that time, so presumably they were still members.

From reports of the 1977 IVU Congress in India:

right: British delegates from left to right: Mr. B. Gunn-King, Secretary I.V.U.; Dr.Gordon Latto, President I.V.U.; Mrs Serena Coles, Vegan Society; Mr John le Grice, V.S.U.K.

From the program of the 1979 IVU Congress in England:

[pre congress notes] There will also be exhibits by . . . the Vegan Society. . . .

Film on "Open Door" veganism from T.V. for Vegan Society. (there were other vegan speakers but now several vegan societies represented and there is no indication where they came from, but probably 3 others from the UK based society)

From the list of subscriptions paid by member societies: The Vegan Society (U.K.) 1975 - £30.00; 1976 - £36.00; 1977 - £40.00

From reports of the 1982 IVU Congress in Germany:

Reports were presented from the following societies:- . . . United Kingdom . . . Vegan Society - Mrs Serena Coles

Available records from 1983-1990 make no mention of the Vegan Society.

From IVU Membership records for 1991-94, subscriptions paid:

The Vegan Society (UK): 1991- £50; 1992 - £50; 1993 -£25; 1994 - £25

The Vegan Society left IVU in 1994 and rejoined in 2000, since when it has been particularly active in suport of IVU - not least in ensuring that all food at all IVU World Veg Congresses has been completely vegan since 1999, and that all the 3,000+ recipes on the IVU website have been completely vegan since the collection was started in 1997.

In 2011 IVU has 22 full voting member organisations which have the word 'vegan' in their title, and many more that are vegan in all but name - and another 112 called 'vegan' that are registered in our public database.

for the Vegan Society today see

If you have any more information about anything on this page please contact John Davis -