The Ever-Changing Face of Veganism
abel Cluer (right) is one of the oldest living vegans in the world, aged 103. As a vegetarian from birth, she fought challenging perceptions and adopted a vegan lifestyle along the way. We have asked her to share her remarkable journey.
When did it all begin? I was born in 1911, Hale, Cheshire. My father opened several health food stores in the area: Sale, Chorlton and Manchester. All those shops were open during the First World War. My father was always keen on vegetarianism and was leaning towards veganism. He finally made the transition in the 1940s. My mother wasn’t a vegetarian when she met my father, but he influenced her to make the conversion. What were the impressions of veganism at this time? It was extremely unusual in those days. My father’s family said his health would deteriorate. Instead of deteriorating, he lived a healthy life until the age of 96. How did growing up with parents who were vegetarian affect you? They gave me a very good foundation of morality. They taught me to be honest and sensible—not frivolous and uncaring. My character definitely reflects my parents’ views. When did you decide to become vegan? It was around 1949. As I had always been a vegetarian it was just a case of cutting out dairy products really. When my daughter Dilys was born, I partially breast-fed and a vegetarian doctor called Doctor Pink provided me with a baby milk formula. I became a vegan shortly after this time. I also contributed to the Vegan Mothers and Children book, as did Dilys in a later edition. 12 The Vegan | Winter 2014
What were your motives for being a vegan? Was there a final realisation for you? If you want to be a strict vegetarian then becoming a vegan is the logical choice, otherwise you’re contributing to slaughter and leaving animals without families. I felt, unless you were vegan, you weren’t being a proper vegetarian. You couldn’t have those kinds of foods [such as cheese], unless you supported killing. Was it difficult finding information on veganism? Not really. I read the information that the Vegetarian Society produced all my life. When The Vegan Society was established we knew perceptions were changing. How did you and your husband meet? When did you open your own health food store? I was very lucky. I went on holiday in the Lake District to a vegetarian guest house and he was one of the guests there. We had a very happy life together for 48 years. My husband opened the shop in Wimbledon in 1934, which was strictly vegetarian. I moved down to Wimbledon when we got married in 1946. Over the years was there anything else you did to promote veganism? To begin with we started a vegetarian society in Wimbledon. Of course, that gave us a means of contacting the community. I also held cookery demonstrations in the 1960s and 1970s. Due to these talks and demonstrations I was becoming more active in the campaign for veganism. Where were the demonstrations held? What dishes did you prepare? We used church halls. Fortunately, Wimbledon still has a community centre. It is actually an ancient chapel used for services in the old days. It was great because they had two or three big rooms and a kitchen. I made savoury things mostly: lentil dishes and bean dishes.