If we are speaking solely of diet then "vegan" denotes meeting certain criteria. The simplest of criteria is that it contains no animal products.
We need to stop thinking of labels. It doesn't matter what a person labels them-self as but when describing food as vegan I want to be assured that it contains no animal products. Like "kosher", meeting the criteria to be defined as such is really all that matters. Even if I am not a strict vegan, I may want to order vegan food with the full expectation that it meets the defined criteria.
You can change the label but only the label changes. . . not the meaning.
The politics of veganism is a whole different animal (pun intended).
Hi, Anna! Topics that may lead to debate (a topic like this one could easily do so) is moved to Food Fight. It's not so that people can argue about something, but years ago the forum only had one board and there was a near melt-down. The people who wanted a social space wanted a board separate from a "discussion" board, so the multiple board system was initiated.
As to your question, rswhitaker reflects my position. I've said many times that my concern is when someone calls themselves vegan, but then eats fish/egg/dairy/insect products, and that creates confusion that could comprise the rest of us if we're then served food represented as vegan. Case-in-point: my supervisor made a whole batch of baklava because I couldn't have what he made for everyone else, only it had honey. There's enough mis-information that he went to all of that trouble and then I had to give it away. If he had known, he would have used agave, but someone who represented his/herself as vegan ate honey so he didn't know.
I don't think vegans expect to take over the sociopolitical world, although we do have crossover with omnis. In California, Prop 2 (Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act) easily passed. Also, PETA (for as little as I think of them) has made some forward movement change even though they're vegetarians and the majority of the population is omni. People don't need to be vegan to care about their health, the environment, or animals.
In terms of restaurants, the number of restaurants that serve exclusively/mostly veg*n food probably represent the percent of population within that demographic. I've always found a meal at any restaurant, although it is sometimes a special order. The only time I've had a problem is when a meal is catered, although most conferences I attend now have a vegan meal option. In terms of groceries, most stores have a veg*n section. I feel like we, as a small group of people, have power beyond our numbers.
I'm not sure in what way we're shooting ourselves in the collective foot. Nutritionally, the SAD diet is, well, sad - but people aren't even eating that "healthy". If the pyramid was changed to be more reflective of real nutritional requirements, I don't expect people would follow it, either.
I think the concern about whether someone calls themselves vegan is not about the term/label, but that we want what vegan stands for to be clear. And we want to have certain expectations when something is marketed as vegan.