I wish I'd seen this information on vegan activism when I was attacked for being a "damned, stupid half-vegan" (see our post Compassion Will Cure More Sins Than Condemnation).
Vegan Outreach has a particular segment on activism entitled, Busting the Vegan Police, in which they say:
It is imperative for us to realize that if our veganism is a statement for animal liberation, veganism cannot be an exclusive, ego-boosting club. Rather, we must become the mainstream. Fostering the impression that "it’s so hard to be vegan–animal products are in everything," and emphasizing animal products where the connection to animal suffering is tenuous, works against this by allowing most to ignore us and causing others to give up the whole process out of frustration.
The way veganism is presented to a potential vegan is of major importance. The attractive idea behind being a "vegan" is reducing one’s contribution to animal exploitation. Buying meat, eggs, and/or dairy creates animal suffering–animals will be raised and slaughtered specifically for these products. But if the by-products are not sold, they will be thrown out or given away. As more people stop eating animals, the by-products will naturally fade, so there is no real reason to force other people to worry about them in order to call themselves "vegan."
We want a vegan world, not a vegan club.
Obviously, this veganer-than-thou attitude is something that really bothers me. I agree with Vegan Outreach. If the objective of veganism is to reduce the suffering and exploitation of animals, then to criticize and condemn people who drink Guinness, for example, because it's refined with Isinglass (see this post) isn't going to accomplish that goal. Instead of demanding that people who don't concern themselves with the animal by-products in their food label themselves as "strict vegetarians" perhaps we should allow the term vegan to encompass a broader perspective. As Vegan Outreach points out when fewer animals are consumed, fewer by-products are created. In turn, this will result in the cost of animal by-products rising so that cheaper alternatives will be sought out. The basic principles of supply and demand.
The definition of Vegan in Wikipedia states:
Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Vegans do not use or consume animal products of any kind.
And as Convenient Vegan says in her post:
...the words “seeks to exclude.” This because it is impossible to assure that everything you eat, everything you wear, every part of how you live is completely free of cruelty to animals. The tires on your car – or your bike – were probably created with the assistance of animal by-products. The organic food you eat might well involve the deaths of many little insects. The materials used to build your home may include some products that involved the use of animal products in their production.
In order to bring veganism, and therefore animal rights, into the mainstream it might behoove us all to rethink where we draw our lines.