Labels, we have them thrust upon us, and we do the same to others.
Generally, when someone uses a label, there is a common understanding of that word, example
But sometimes, the labels people use are more about how people wish they were, rather than how they really are.
Taking the words
vegetarian, do these words mean the same for everyone who uses them – either to describe themselves or others, and what happens when they don’t.
Questions that I get asked frequently are variations on, what do people CALL themselves:
- what do you call a vegetarian who eats chicken?
- what do you call a vegetarian who eats cheese?
- what do you call a vegan who eats fish?
- what do you call a vegan who eats cheese and fish?
- what do you call a vegetarian who eats fish but not dairy?
Vegan, vegetarian, freegan, herbivore, locavore, plant-based diet, cheesatarian, cheegan, beegan, part-time vegan, part-time vegetarian, pesco-vegan, lacto-ovo vegan, flexitarian, strict vegetarian, Lebanese vegetarian, or the monstrously pretentious “plant-strong” (Esselstyn).
Argh!! make it stop….. so many labels, so little time to read the dictionary
is a lacto-ovo-pesco-pollo-bovine-porcine vegetarian one who eats eggs and dairy, and occasionally fish, sometimes chicken, sometimes beef, and sometimes pork? The word loses all meaning when accompanied by so many qualifications.
- Dan Balogh: Hitler: Goose Stepper and Goose Eater
In some cases the use of labels for Vegan and Vegetarian can be problematic, especially when used strangely out of correct context:
- My partner was introduced to a new work colleague as being
the vegan of the office, you know, that’s a type of vegetarian.His response
yes, much in the same way a Jewish person is a type of Buddhist, in that they both, you know, believe in Stuff
- Or, the Facebook vegan warrior who tried to tell me I wasn’t entitled to call myself Vegan because I watched Jamie Oliver. And then proceeded to tell me about his diet, including a morning protein drink made with whey… (ah, sweetie, whey is actually a dairy product).
- Or, a friend who tried to tell me that there are two types of vegetarians: those who eat meat and those who don’t
and no matter how hard I tried, I could not convince her that No type of vegetarian eats meat, unless it is the pseudo-vegetarian
- Or, the restaurant near me that lists prawn cutlets on their vegetarian menu, and they don’t mean faux prawns either
- Or, a vegetarian couple I know, one eats bacon and the other chicken wings,
were they at least from a vegetarian chicken?I asked, to much scorn)
Every time a person calls themselves a vegetarian but continues to eat animals, the result is, it just makes life more complicated for the real vegetarians.
Same with vegan, when someone eats dairy, or wears leather, eats sealife, but says, they are vegan, it just makes life much more difficult for the real vegans who try to convince others that – No, vegans don’t, in fact, eat fish, wear leather, drink milk, buy Cover Girl cosmetics.
Without discounting the possible good a mostly-vegetarian-but-not-quite could do…. If they eat meat they are not vegetarian.
So, perhaps, we need a new word for people who try hard – perhaps something like: potential-vegetarian, mostly-vegetarian, transitioning-vegetarian.
The same goes for people who claim the badge of VEGAN, yet deliberately consume animal products or wear animal products. (I do not count people who have their food spiked in this category, some chefs still think that is funny, what matters is intent).
Do people who call themselves VEGAN while wearing leather, or eating animal products, not know that what they are doing is Not vegan, or do they hope no one will notice, or do they just not care?
How about the vegetarian who consumes sea-animals, bacon, chicken – what does vegetarian actually mean to them? They don’t eat beef?
This is an example of
label creep where the meaning of vegan degrades to mean vegetarian, and vegetarian degrades to mean someone who eats vegetables occasionally.
Like the social smoker, who never smokes during the week, but does a packet on the weekend, then tries to claim the label of
Or, the factory-owner who claims be a humanitarian, while paying slave-wages to children locked in factories for 16-hours a day, but for the other eight hours, they’re a true champion of human rights.
Perhaps they want to be vegan, but are unable to – however, if desire alone could make someone something they are not, like a Vegan of a person regardless of what they eat, wear, buy…. then I could call myself a
world famous celebrity, but that wouldn’t make it true either.
But, if the desire is there to be a vegan or a vegetarian, then… good on them.
That is a lot more than most people. And perhaps with a little encouragement and a lot of support, these part-time vegetarians could go all the way.
How is this even possible for a fish / sea-life eater to claim to be in anyway a vegan?
There is no part-time vegans, it just cannot be.
Part time vegan refers to their diet only, then, in this case the label should be
strict vegetarian, which means a vegan diet but non vegan lifestyle.
90% is good, rather, it is a good START, but the important thing is – what about the other 10%, I am not sure those fish and other sea-creatures would take much comfort as they are being shoveled down the throat of a pesco-vegan that for 90% of the time, other animals didn’t have to die.
Would we accept 90% for cases of wrongly executed death-row prisoners?
Well now, we got a strike rate of 90% guilty, and only 10% innocent people mistakenly executed, that’s a win-win situation.
People who eat cheese are not vegan, no matter how famous they are
People who eat cheese and eggs are not vegan, no matter how famous they are or how much more they do for animals than me. Fine, they’re bloody heroes, give them a medal, put them on a stamp, build a statue of them, name a bridge or a street after them – but if they eat cheese, they are not vegan.
Once we start making exception based on the career of people, where does it stop?
Or, are only commoners supposed to be actual-vegans, while celebrities can be almost-vegans?
And, for some reason, there are many vegans get personally offended when you say that eating cheese deliberately is not vegan.
And, almost as outraged when you say that wearing leather is not vegan. Some vegans get all uppity: But, but, but, but Anne Hathaway ate a vegan dessert once, shes one of us, where as you Redglitter are just some militant vegan, giving us a bad name.
The response is like: How dare you attack Alicia! She is our Goddess. You are a Nothing, hear me, You are less than Nothing Redglitter!
Fine, I’ll take that, Militant and Less Than Nothing, perhaps…. but I AM definitely vegan.
It seems, though, that what this defenders of cheese-eating vegans, and leather-wearing vegans, miss…. I’m not attacking an egg-and-dairy-eating, leather wearing, vegan, I am trying to defend the concept of vegan, before it becomes meaningless, before it dilutes into vegetarian, and vegetarian dilutes into ‘eats a vegetable occasionally’
So, to answer the questions that I set asked at the top of this post
- What do you call a vegetarian who eats chicken? Pseudo-vegetarian or Omnivore
- What do you call a vegetarian who eats cheese? A vegetarian
- What do you call a vegan who eats fish? A omnivore
- what do you call a vegan who eats cheese and fish? An omnivore
- what do you call a vegetarian who eats fish but not dairy? A dairy-free omnivore.
*Lebanese vegetarian – I’ve been called that when I try to explain what vegan is, I didn’t realise things were different in Lebanon
*Lacto-Ovo-Meli-Pesco-Pollo-Porcine-Ovis-Bovine-atarians = dairy, eggs, honey, fish, chicken, pork, sheep and beef – atarian