Episode 12: Brave New Project! The History of Vegetarianism, with The Vegan Option’s Ian McDonald

globeDid you know Pythagoras had a mathematical musical vegetarian cult? Have you heard about the Manchester Victorian vegetarian church? Did you know early vegetarians weren’t called vegetarians, but Brahmins? As interest in veganism and vegetarianism soars, there’s no shortage of recipe sites, food documentaries, and information to help folks go vegan. But if you go looking for a a cohesive picture of our movement’s history, your brain will be left hungry. BBC radio guy, vegan podcaster, and history enthusiast Ian McDonald envisions a cure for this sad situation — wait til you hear what he’s working on! Better yet, wait til you hear how you can be part of it. Listen!

About Ian

Ian McDonald is a BBC-trained radio producer, a doctor of biochemistry, and a long-term vegan. He has blogged about why he’s making The Vegan Option, which is being picked up now by mainstream radio at Resonance FM (see below) — woot, vegan world takeover!

In his most ambitious project yet, Ian wants to create something that the world has never had before: a comprehensive radio project telling the story of vegetarianism through the ages, from antiquity right up through the present day.

Yes, Please!

Since the project is so broad in scope, and since the goal is a well-produced body of work that can stand the test of time, it’s going to be expensive to produce.

But once it’s complete, it will be available as a series of free 15-minute audio downloads — easy to reach and accessible to anyone interested, for years and years to come!

From Ian’s project summary:

If you have chosen to live your life in mercy and compassion to other animals, then you stand in a long line. It stretches back to iron age Greece and India, where voices emerge from prehistory challenging the idea that other animals exist purely for us.

I want to bring these stories of compassion to life vividly, using actors, archive, and location recording, so that people who are curious about our legacy of compassion will still be turning to it in ten or twenty years.

This is an enormous commitment of time and money. I can’t do this by myself.

Examples of the locations I want to take listeners to include:

–Manchester’s Victorian vegetarian church
–The London street where the word “vegan” was coined
–The Indian countryside where iron age philosophers developed Ahimsa
–Mysore, India, where western missionaries adopted vegetarianism to fit in and   preach

Though we’ve long admired Ian’s work at The Vegan Option, we don’t have any financial stake in this grand plan. But we’re devoting this episode to Ian’s idea, because everyone who walks the veg path has a cultural and philosophical stake in this project: there is strength and power in knowing our shared history. We stand with unsung heroes of compassion, nonviolent philosophers, and  champions of nonviolence through the ages — we should know their stories!


Remember those same tired old anti-veg arguments you here over and over and over from defensive omnis? Well, it’s not just you; and it’s not just now. Turns out those lame-o arguments are stinky perennials! Thousands of years ago, vegetarian philosophers were debunking the same bulls**t.

Why am I not surprised?!

Progressive Kitch Episode 6: Anti-Veg Myths — Debunkery and Social Navigation

Ian’s vegetarian history project involves meticulous planning and production, with the very highest quality standards to create a comprehensive body of work about the complete history of vegetarianism that will stand the test of time — just like at The Vegan Option, where well-produced in-depth meticulously accurate episodes remain popular and valuable for months and years after publication. For example, the most popular 2013 episode of The Vegan Option wasn’t from 2013 at all: it’s just evergreen.

The Vegan Option — Judgemental: social attitudes towards vegetarians

This emphasis on quality, accuracy, and ‘evergreen’ listener value mean only good things for the vegetarian history project!

Speaking of history: the vegan movement lost a pioneer and grand historian with Rynn Berry’s passing earlier this year. If you don’t know how valuable it is to know our history as a movement, read anything by Rynn Berry!

Ian also has a lovely idea for a vegan podcast clip show, to help members of our community find all the riches out there in podcast-and-radio-land. Best of the Left makes the format work beautifully, for political radio; why not something similar for veggie stuff? What a(nother) great idea!


This week’s BrainGarden picks are brought to you by history.

For Further Exploration: About The Vegan Option

If you enjoyed this interview with Ian, definitely also check out The Vegan Option.

The podcast-turned-radio-show consists of 20-30 minute shows, each of which picks a topic relevant to vegans and interviews the most important and interesting people. These have included the UK’s 3 vegan MPs, a Peta-funded scientist about lab meat, and philosophers such as Peter Singer and Gary Francione in a show about trends in behaviour towards animals. Recent shows have covered what vegans feed cats, the history of science fiction, and palm oil.

The show doesn’t sound like activism. It’s baketivism for the brain – really interesting radio that just happens to be vegan. You can find out more, including the archive of shows, at theVeganOption.org. Hear a two minute trailer with clips and reviews.

About Resonance FM

Resonance FM is an experimental ‘radio art’ station. It broadcasts a broad range of music, art, and politics shows from its transmitter near London Bridge. Despite being a volunteer-run community station, it has been nominated for several national UK radio awards. The broadcast audience is not measured (but the transmissions reach a population of approximately a million); in 2009, almost 50,000 people a month tuned into the online stream.

About British Public Radio

British Public Radio was born out of a knowledge that there are a lot of good speech radio programmes which are either never made or never heard in Britain; a belief that there is a vast untapped market for speech radio which is more accessible than that currently available in the UK; and a desire to bring the two together. It offers an alternative to BBC speech radio. It is currently an internet station and online portal, showcasing a range of content to demonstrate the possibilities to investors that will support the project to the next level.

Go Now!

Be part of something amazing: support this landmark project.

Help Ian make history!

Image credit: globe photo via Shutterstock.

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