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Kathleen Jannaway 1915-2003: A Life Well Lived by Harry Mather & Malcolm Horne, Vegan Views 96 (Spring 2003)

Harry Mather writes...

There is always a great sadness in having to record the passing of someone who has been an inspiration to so many, but we should also be happy and grateful for all the good work done for the vegan cause by Kathleen Jannaway who died on 26th January 2003.

She was born in 1915. She lost both parents by the age of three and was brought up by grandparents, who managed their low budget so well that she was never aware of being deprived. She did well at school and became a teacher of biology.

She married Jack Jannaway. They shared a radical outlook and seeking a fairer, more caring world and became conscientious objectors during the war. They were also Quakers. It was a successful partnership and Jack, though never prominent, was a constant and reliable support in all Kathleen's work. During the war whilst she was preparing the meagre ration of lamb Kathleen heard a commotion outside and saw lambs in the field. They both suddenly made the connection and became vegetarians.

In 1964, Kathleen read a review of the book 'Animal Machines' by Ruth Harrison which revealed the cruel farming conditions of battery cages for hens and narrow crates for veal calves. She then made the connection between milk production and the need to slaughter superfluous male calves. At once she became a vegan. In 1971, having raised three children, she took over as secretary of The Vegan Society and dedicated her mind and her energy to the vegan cause.

Aided by Jack Sanderson as President, Eva Batt who investigated vegan products and wrote cookbooks, Serena Coles, and Grace Smith as Treasurer, she headed a group of dedicated workers for veganism. When they heard that ITV was providing facilities for independent groups to promote their ideas, they were among the first to avail themselves of this facility and quickly produced a programme for this Open Door series and brought the vegan message to a wider world. The response from viewers was overwhelming and almost overnight membership was doubled to over 1,000.

She was tireless in speaking to groups, holding stalls, and was always available to individuals, encouraging and supporting them. Her talks and articles in The Vegan magazine were an inspiration, based on facts as well as sentiment, covering scientific and ecological aspects but still with a strong moral outlook. She loved to quote a scientist who said, after listening to her talk, "Of course, you're right, Kathleen. But you're a little extreme!" For her, following the right path was the only way forward and her scientific arguments were strong. She was always quoting from scientific journals in support of her case.

Besides editing and contributing to The Vegan magazine, she produced many booklets: Pioneers of a New Age - the reminiscences of twelve early vegans, Vegan Mothers and Children by ten vegan mothers, First Hand First Rate - 60 simple recipes and ideas for economical healthy living on plant products most of which can be home grown, Introduction to Practical Veganism, The Why and How of Veganism - personal experiences, The Second Population Explosion, The Health of Vegans and many more leaflets.

Her routine was to deal with the day's mail and then spend some hours with Jack in their large garden, where they grew fruit and vegetables on vegan organic principles. Over more than 15 years they proved that soil fertility could be maintained without using animal products, pesticides or outside fertilisers, but using techniques of composting, green manuring and crop rotation. She claimed that without too many hours working, a middle aged couple could be largely self-sufficient on less than half an acre. Yearly Garden Parties on their lawn became a welcome meeting ground for vegans before the current Vegan Camps and Summer Gatherings were established.

She firmly believed in natural foods grown locally where possible and supported the whole grain and heath food movements as against supermarket junk foods. In 1984, when Jack was seriously ill and needing her care, she was unable to attend the AGM. A section of The Vegan Society felt that her stance was preventing the basic vegan message from reaching a larger public who were shopping in supermarkets and bought convenience foods. Another group was voted in. They opened an office in Oxford (Kathleen had worked from home), they did produce appealing leaflets but failed to attract the commercial funding they hoped for and ran down the reserves that Kathleen had painfully built up.

Kathleen felt she had been stabbed in the back whilst she had been caring for her husband, but was determined to continue her work. She formed the Movement For Compassionate Living (The Vegan Way) dedicated to working non-violently for lifestyles possible for all the world's peoples, sustainable within the planet's resources and free from all animal exploitation.

New Leaves was the quarterly magazine she produced for the MCL which brought support from around the world. A booklet Abundant Living in the Coming Age of the Tree set out clearly the importance of trees in the earth's ecology and their contribution to the vegan lifestyle, by producing alternatives to animal derived products.

She also published other booklets: Growing Our Own, Recipes From New Leaves, Recipes For a Sustainable Future. A New World Order of Self-Reliant, Tree-based Autonomous Vegan Villages set out a vision of a future society contrasted to the exploitative, globalising trend. She also produced a sticker about Global Warming warning that animal farming was destructive of trees, released methane gas, much more destructive of the ozone layer than carbon dioxide, but planting trees would reduce CO2 levels.

A few years ago after Jack's death, she sold the house in Leatherhead that had been the headquarters of The Vegan Society for many years, and bought a farm in Devon where, with her two children, she planted trees. Sadly, she fell whilst leaning on a stick which gave way and she broke her leg which took a long time to heal and she never seemed to regain her vigorous health.

She was pleased to have been elected as a patron of The Vegan Society at the AGM of the Society in 2002. To most of the young people there she was only a name but the Society and the whole vegan cause worldwide owes much to her devoted, intelligent and hard work, which has made veganism better known and respected.

She was principally motivated by ideas of peace and justice for the whole world and her enthusiasm for veganism was that it played a large part in promoting greater fairness for humans and animals and leading to less exploitation of the poorer nations and creating a more peaceful world.

As I write the world seems threatened by dangerous escalation to war and further conflict, and world trade seems just an excuse to exploit the poorer peoples, but there is a growing awareness of the problems facing the whole of humanity and mass popular movements call up large demonstrations. More than ever we need the inspiration of Kathleen's vision that veganism is a vital solution to the these problems and essential for a stable, peaceful future for the world.

Others have already taken over the administration of the Movement For Compassionate Living and the horticultural work is being established by the Vegan Organic Network (see page 20). VON is establishing standards for vegan organic food production (also known as stockless cultivation). They hope to set up an experimental and educational centre to promote food production on vegan organic lines. The proof already exists that agriculture without animal fertilisers or pesticides is sustainable. Kathleen and others have proved it on a small scale but a larger centre that can be readily visited by the public is the way forward and VON are appealing for funds to make this a reality.

Malcolm Horne writes...

When I became vegan in 1972, and joined the Vegan Society, I found Kathleen a help and an inspiration. Her house in Leatherhead, which I visited many times in the 1970s, felt like an oasis in a largely unsympathetic world.

She helped and encouraged many of us in those days - perhaps young people especially. And, as I wrote in the last issue, she encouraged the development of Vegan Views, recognising that a forum for informal discussion would be helpful (while The Vegan, which she edited, had to be more of a shop window for veganism and the Society).

Kathleen presided over the Vegan Society from 1971 to 1984 in a largely non-dogmatic way, trying to cater for many different tastes and opinions. It was a very time-consuming job, but she still managed to receive and welcome many visitors, write thoughtful letters, and also to give frequent talks and run stalls in various parts of the country.

I had less contact with her during the MCL years (1985 onwards), when she pursued her particular interest of sustainable non-exploitative vegan lifestyles, and I last saw her when she was in hospital in 2001. She was in some pain after a fall, but still chatted on about people and ideas. I think she was rather frustrated that the rest of the world was awakening oh so slowly to the issues she felt passionate about.

It's hard to think of anyone in recent times who has done more for the vegan cause.

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Cross-reference: History