United Kingdom

Veganism in the UK

Growing up in Great Britain, 50 years ago, there was not so much meat around. Turkey was eaten once a year at Christmas and the big meal of the week was the Sunday roast. The rest of the week was a lot of potatoes and root vegetables in winter and salad in the summer, with many people growing their own food. The Vegetarian Society was started in 1847 in Ramsgate, though the vast majority of people were ignorant of its existence or even the concept of plant based eating. The original vegan society, first coined the term vegan in 1944. In schools we were taught the theories of Pythagorus but not told that he was a vegetarian, living over 500 years BC and that many people followed his beliefs in this regard. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the West Bank between 1946 and 1956, giving some clues that Jesus may have been vegetarian and there existed a community known as the Essenes who rejected animal sacrifices during religious events and were likely vegetarian. The fact that Buddhist temples have long followed a vegetarian diet, was kept well hidden from children.


The great and mighty restaurant Cranks, with it's self deprecating name opened it's doors in 1962, in Carnaby Street, a trendy area in London. It was revolutionary, not only vegetarian, it also served whole foods, like whole grain rice, with vegetables that were not over cooked and sauces and dressing packed with flavour. They grew to five restaurants around London, each with it's own character. Ironically, it was the rise of vegetarianism that helped lead to it's demise, as mainstream chains started offering vegetarian options. Maybe their attempted leap to become a chain, was a bridge too far, at the time. There were various attempts at restyling their restaurants to adapt to the changing times. Rising London rents, made it difficult to compete. it went into receivership after borrowing heavily to finance a wholesaling venture, then borrowing again to pay for three branches in the City of London.