Veganism is often considered a diet. If you remove meat, milk and eggs from what you eat most people would consider you to be vegan. I'd like to challenge that idea. I think that only half of veganism is diet. That belief is rooted in my personal understanding of veganism as a social movement. One of the major purposes of veganism is to make a loud enough challenge to the meat eating culture that being vegan becomes normal. By repeating it and putting it out there we are engaging in the same normalizing process that the media uses to sell us products and lifestyles. We don't want animals to be treated nicer, we want to be entirely free of the idea of eating or using them at all. To get there we need a profound cultural change.
What I eat as a single person is important, but it's not the be all and end all of veganism. By buying organic tofu instead of veal I am choosing to financially fund food options I agree with, but I am only one person. By telling people about what I am eating and why I am more than one person. I am being vegan. I am engaging in the social movement and encouraging others to get involved. That is why when I see private vegans, vegans who are hush hush I'm telling you I'm vegan because I know you are but no one else really knows because I don't bother telling them, I feel betrayed. It's a tricky slope because you don't want to encourage a vegan scale, where one person is more vegan than someone else and subsequently better. No, that's an absolutely horrible idea. I would say though that if someone is happy living their whole life as a vegan and not challenging anyone else about their non-veganism I ideally wouldn't call them vegan. I would say they eat a vegan diet, but they're definitely not vegan.
So then the question arises about people who don't eat vegan food but who very avidly advocate vegetarianism. If eating vegan food is half of veganism, are they closer to being vegan than people who actually call themselves vegan? Alec Baldwin is a fantastic example. He is vegetarian, so he definitely doesn't have eat a vegan diet. However, he narrated the short film Meet your Meat. He does ad campaigns for PETA and is in their vegetarian starter kit. While you could know who he is and not know he's vegetarian, if you read up on him for any period of time at all you'd quickly learn about it. It is an intricate part of who he is and who he presents himself to be. Alec Baldwin encourages vegetarianism and even presents it as an ideal. So while Alec Baldwin may not eat a vegan diet I would consider him to be vegan in his activism practices. I wouldn't consider him vegan though (because diet is half of it!), but I'd say he is halfway there.
Pamela Anderson is another great example. She's vegan. She poses naked for PETA. It's an extremely important part of who she is. While you may not always agree with how she advertises veganism and animal rights it's hard to challenge that veganism is an integral part of her media image. I don't always agree with everything she does, but I'd say she is a perfect example of a well rounded vegan.
I'd like to make it clear that I'm not saying people shouldn't eat vegan diets, eating vegan food is and always will be an integral part of veganism. I am however challenging the diluted message that eating vegan food makes you a vegan. As long as the meat culture exists, and possibly after, vegans need to encourage cultural change. While you don't need to immediately become vegan and challenge any family members that puts milk on the table, I'd say you aren't vegan if you never plan to.