American Vegan Society

The American Vegan Society (AVS) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes veganism in the United States. It was founded in 1960 by H. Jay Dinshah.[1][2] The date of the earlier The Vegan Society (UK)'s founding, November 1, is now celebrated annually as World Vegan Day.

American Vegan Society
PredecessorVegan Society (still active)
Formation1960 (1960)
FounderH. Jay Dinshah
Founded atMalaga, New Jersey
EIN 226058533
Legal status501(c)(3) organization
PurposePromotion of veganism
Headquarters56 Dinshah Lane, Malaga, New Jersey
Coordinates39.5681°N 75.0474°W / 39.5681; -75.0474
 United States
Official language
Freya Dinshah
Key people
  • Ann Dinshah
  • Sarah Filippi-Field
  • Vance Lehmkuhl
Main organ
American Vegan (formerly Ahimsa)


The organization publishes American Vegan quarterly magazine, which is sent to members of the society (earlier issues are published on the website), and books about veganism (since 1964). The organization educates about a vegan diet.[3] It sponsors Dynamic Harmlessness Day annually on November 2, the birthday of the late H. Jay Dinshah, cofounder of the American Vegan Society. It has two YouTube channels, "Powerful Vegan Messages" and "American Vegan Society". It administers the AVS Speakers Bureau (18 popular vegan speakers from throughout the United States) and vegan conferences (the first annual event was held in 1960; bylaws require an annual vegan conference). The AVS administers cooking classes, gourmet vegan dinners by culinary students, encouraging culinary students to learn vegan cooking by hosting events with only vegan food, and other food events.[4][5]

Currently this is four AVS-coordinated and hosted events each year; the template for these events is used increasingly throughout America. Outreach at public events (vegan books, vegan literature, and speaking about veganism). Other support for direct inquiries, consulting for vegan community outreach. It collects, aggregates, and publishes a comprehensive list of vegan-oriented VegFests around the United States.[6] Prior to broad and widely-accessible search capabilities of the Internet, the American Vegan Society published networking and business resources which supported vegan lifestyle.


In 1960, 26 year-old H. Jay Dinshah founded the American Vegan Society. Later that year Dinshah married the English-born Freya Smith.[7] Freya, whose parents were active in The Vegan Society (of England), contributed to the early growth of the American Vegan Society and is president of the AVS today. The American Vegan Society is headquartered at Malaga, New Jersey, on a parcel of land which is called "SunCrest", or "the SunCrest Educreational Center." During Dinshah's life, the AVS was characterized by vegan publishing and outreach, annual vegan conferences, vegan archiving, spiritual inspiration, providing people with an experience of vegan living, vegan food-preparation demonstrations, maintenance of a small veganic garden, and extensive networking. Dinshah served the AVS as its president and as editor of its publication, Ahimsa magazine (1960–2000). In 2000, Dinshah died of a heart attack at age 66, after a life of promoting veganism.

In 1974, the organization did help found the North American Vegetarian Society in so to host the 1975 World Vegetarian Congress in the United States for the first time, which was held in Orono, Maine.[8]

Smithsonian Magazine in 2011 wrote: "Like its predecessors, the vegan society connects a meat-free diet to a number of other causes, including moral and environmental considerations. Among the reasons for veganism the group’s website lists are: health; 'an equitable, ethical relationship between human and other living creatures'; 'spiritual development'; and 'practical solutions to the population explosion.'"[9]

Ahimsa magazine was a quarterly publication that explored compassionate living ("Ahimsa" meaning "dynamic harmlessness") as a philosophy, practical aspects of vegan living, and personal and cultural resources for vegans. Ahimsa included vegan menus and recipes, and news about food. The American Vegan Society continues to publish a quarterly periodical, now titled American Vegan, with the motto "Ahimsa lights the way." The AVS is now led and managed by its president, Freya Dinshah and advised by the AVS Council of Trustees, all of whom are vegans, and operated by a team of staff and volunteers.

The American Vegan Society "promotes, supports, and explores a compassionate, healthful, and sustainaeble lifestyle, and is known for advocating for vegan foods.[10] The diet is plant-sourced, varied, and abundant. For ethical, health, environmental, and other reasons, (vegans) reject all animal products in food, clothing, and commodities, and the exploitation of animals for sport or entertainment. AVS is guided by the doctrines of Ahimsa (non-slaughter, non-violence) and Reverence for Life, and provides community and friendship to those following and learning about this way of living."[11]

Donald Watson in England (and possibly others) coined the term 'vegan' in 1944; it referred to an entirely plant-based diet (with or without spiritual or philosophical or ethical underpinnings).[12] American Vegan Society used the term vegan to mean dynamic harmlessness and successfully developed a broad social base of practicing vegans who committed themselves to that meaning and practice.

In 1948, Nimmo and Rubin Abramowitz formed the first vegan organization in the United States known as the U.S. Vegan Society, in Oceano, California.[13][14][15] The Society lasted from 1948 to 1960 and was a predecessor to the American Vegan Society.[16] They both joined this latter one when Dinshah founded it in 1960.[17]

  • 1961 - the American Vegan Society organized and carried out a Coast to Coast Crusade for Veganism across North America, including various parts of Canada and the USA.
  • 1965 - the American Vegan Society organized and carried out North Atlantic Lecture Tour (Iceland, Britain, Europe).
  • 1967 and 1968 - the American Vegan Society organized and carried out an international ("Round the World") Lecture Tour.[18]

American Vegan Center

The American Vegan Society opened the American Vegan Center on September 9, 2021 located at 17 North Second Street in Philadelphia's Old City. The center has a bookstore, an event space, a demonstration kitchen, and a gift shop. It is the first public space operated by the American Vegan Society. Journalist Vance Lehmkuhl directs the center and provides 75-minute walking history tours of Philadelphia's vegan history, with stops to discuss Benjamin Lay, Benjamin Franklin, Caroline Earle White, Anthony Benezet, and others, including national figures such as Sylvester Graham.[19][20]

Dynamic Harmlessness Day

Dynamic Harmlessness Day is celebrated on November 2 each year. The day remembers American Vegan Society founder Jay Dinshah who created the term “dynamic harmlessness.”[21]

American Vegan Society conventions

Annual Conferences were held since 1960.

Alternate conferences and conventions were held, largely in the northeastern US (New Jersey and New York) but also earlier in California, then later in California (Arcata), Colorado (Denver), Oregon (Portland), and Washington (Olympia), often sharing logistical responsibilities with local and regional vegetarian societies. For a number of years, beginning in 1989, convention proceedings were videotaped.

The Dinshahs conducted weekend workshops, cooking classes, and other educational programs at SunCrest in Malaga, as early as 1969, when their first building (headquarters) was donated.

In 1995, the AVS cohosted the 8th International Vegan Festival in San Diego California, with VUNA (Vegetarian Union of North America) and Vegans International (VI).

Incomplete List of American Vegan Society conventions:[22]

  • AVS Vegan Conferences have been held annually since 1960.

Some of these conferences were:

  • 1960 – Malaga NJ(?)

- Some annual conferences were in California during the 1960s

  • 1969 – Malaga NJ: Educreational Program
  • 1987 
  • 1989 – Arcata CA (videotaped)
  • 1991 – Denver CO (videotaped)
  • 1993 – Portland OR (videotaped)
  • 1995 – San Diego California: 8th International Vegan Festival, co-hosted with VUNA (Vegetarian Union of North America) and Vegans International (VI)
  • 1996 – ?Johnstown, PA (with the World Vegetarian Congress?)
  • 1997 – Olympia, WA (videotaped)
  • 1998 – Olympia, WA (videotaped)
  • 1999 – Boulder, CO (videotaped)
  • 2000 – Toronto, ON
  • 2001 – Malaga, NJ (AVS HQ) – 41st Annual Convention (May 26 and 27, 2001)
  • 2002 – Philadelphia, PA – International Scientific Conference on Chinese Plant Based Nutrition and Cuisine – February 15, 16, 17, 2002 (videotaped)
  • 2002 – Malaga, NJ (AVS HQ) – 42nd Annual Convention (May 26, 2002)
  • 2003 – Malaga, NJ (AVS HQ) – 43rd Convention of American Vegan Society (May 25, 2003)
  • 2004 – Malaga, NJ (AVS HQ) – 44th Convention of American Vegan Society (May 30, 2004)
  • 2005 – Malaga, NJ (AVS HQ) – 45th Convention of American Vegan Society
  • 2006 – Malaga, NJ (AVS HQ) – 46th Convention of American Vegan Society
  • 2007 – Malaga, NJ (AVS HQ) – 47th Convention of American Vegan Society
  • 2008 – Malaga, NJ (AVS HQ) – 48th Anniversary American Vegan Garden Party (May 25, 2008)
  • 2009 – Malaga, NJ (AVS HQ) – 49th Anniversary American Vegan Garden Party (May 2009)
  • 2010 – Malaga, NJ (AVS HQ) – 50th Anniversary American Vegan Garden Party (May 30, 2010)
  • 2011 – Malaga, NJ (AVS HQ) – 51st Anniversary American Vegan Garden Party (May 29, 2010)

Additional Workshops[22]

  • 2002 – South Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington DC – Day-Long Workshop with Vesanto Melina, RD, MS
  • 2003 – Kind Café, 724 North 3rd Street, Philadelphia PA – World Vegan Day (November 1, 2003)
  • 2007 – Candle 79 154 E 79TH New York NY – World Vegan Month (November 17, 2007)
  • 2010 – Atlantic Cape Community College – Spring Celebration Dinner (March 23, 2010)

See also


  1. Fussell, B. H. (June 11, 1978). "FOOD: MALAGA". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 5, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. "About AVS - Founder". American Vegan Society. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  3. INDEPENDENT, KELLIE McKINNEY | FOR THE DAILY. "Facts about vegetarians and vegans". The Independent Online. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  4. Staff Reports. "Briefs: Chocolate fest, vegan dinner, shutterbugs, author talk, pensioners, HIV testing". The Daily Journal. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  5. Arnold, Kendra. "Where to get your vegan Thanksgiving dinner in New Jersey". Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  6. "VegFests in the USA". Archived from the original on July 17, 2018. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  7. American Vegan. 13 (3): 4. Fall 2013.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link)
  8. Kamila, Avery Yale (August 16, 2020). "Vegan Kitchen: Exactly 45 years ago, Maine hosted a historic 2-week conference for vegetarians". Press Herald. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  9. Bramen, Lisa. "The Long Marriage of Vegetarianism and Social Activism". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  10. Bromwich, Jonah Engel; Yar, Sanam (July 25, 2019). "The Fake Meat War (Published 2019)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  11. American Vegan. 13 (3): 33. Fall 2013.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link)
  12. Obituary of Donald Watson, who died at 95, by Karen Dawn, Thursday Dec 8th, 2005 6:50 PM
  13. "Throwback Thursday: Dr. Catherine Nimmo, Vegan Pioneer". American Vegan Society. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  14. Iacobbo, Karen; Iacobbo, Michael. (2004). Vegetarian America: A History. Praeger Publishing. p. 167. ISBN 978-0-275-97519-7
  15. Stepaniak, Joanne. (2000). The Vegan Sourcebook. McGraw-Hill Education. pp. 6-7. ISBN 9780071392211
  16. Inness, Sherrie A. (2005). Secret Ingredients: Race, Gender, and Class at the Dinner Table. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 156. ISBN 978-1-34-953164-6
  17. "History of American Vegan Society". Archived from the original on August 27, 2014. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  18. Dinshah, HJ (1973). Song of India.
  19. "New center will highlight Philadelphia's vegan roots". WHYY. Retrieved July 5, 2022.
  20. "American Vegan Center Opens in Old City". Retrieved July 5, 2022.
  21. Kiani, Tamkeen (June 13, 2022). "Dynamic Harmlessness Day". National Today. Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  22. "AVS Events". Archived from the original on October 18, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2012.

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