A welfare vegan is someone who, for a variety of reasons, does not always follow a vegan diet. There are other criteria that make up a welfare vegan, and not every single welfare vegan person meets this one, but it is common and prevalent enough online that it's becoming a real problem.
In my opinion welfare vegans should refer to themselves as vegetarians who try to eat a mostly vegan diet. After all, they don't eat a vegan diet. I've met several in the past who have actually referred to themselves in the way I prefer (all hope is not lost!) and I have thanked them for not degrading the term vegan. I do not mean to put the term vegan on a sacred pedestal, but without standards the very meaning of veganism is lost.
Once upon a time the word vegetarian represented what veganism is today. It was a total rejection of any animal product, including milk and eggs. I'm not sure when, but somehow this changed. Eventually enough people who only stopped eating meat called themselves vegetarian that the real vegetarians decided to come up with a new word so people would realize what they really were. The term vegan was chosen to signify the beginning and end of vegetarianism. To me that means we start with the desire to not harm animals, and take it further than vegetarians. We take it to the ultimate level where no animal suffers in any way in our diet (or at least we try our very best). In a welfare vegan diet animals do suffer because it includes vegetarian products.
The intellectual fight over the term vegan is more than an issue of semantics. Today there are people who call themselves vegetarians who eat fish and chicken. I have been to a restaurant that included fish ingredients in its vegetarian options, because it is after all vegetarian (wtf no!). I am worried that one day when I go to a 'vegan' restaurant someone is going to stick cow milk or chicken period in my food, and then I'm going to have to make up a new word no one will no about and no one will cater to.
Not only do welfare vegans threaten our restaurants but they take up space in the big wide internet void. When people type the word vegan in a google search there are plenty of blogs that pop up - and we don't have the option of censoring them. Most people have never met a vegan, and reading a welfare vegan's opinion about hiding in the backyard to eat your vegan food if no one will tolerate you eating it in public or eating vegetarian food so that you can make your diet look easy (how can it look easy if you're not even showing them your actual diet?!) gives a vegetarian impression on vegan issues. That's fine, until people begin to think vegans actually think and act this way. I can't count the number of times people have spouted cookie cutter welfare vegan advice at me only to be confused when I explain that it involves animal suffering so it's not vegan.
The next time you see a welfare vegan please correct them and let them know they aren't vegan. It's fine if they're not (as long as they will be one day!), and until they eat a strict vegan diet they shouldn't label themselves in ways that devalue and degrade veganism. Peter Singer that means you!