Labels are very important to vegans. Nutritional labels, certainly, but even more important is the label “Vegan” itself.

Though plenty of vegans are not over-anxious to disclose their animal-product-eschewing lifestyle to strangers, it’s a fact they cannot hide for long, especially if food is present. “Is that vegan?” is the first question any vegan must ask about food they aren’t sure they can trust, and it’s an instant giveaway. With their vegan identity reinforced at every meal, it is hard for veganism to not become a big part of who vegans are. But that’s just fine for most vegans, because the label gives them a purpose. By strictly obeying vegan rules, vegans become worthy of the label, and become a part of something larger than themselves that is for the good of the world.

In order for this meaning creation to seem plausible, the definition of vegan must be protected.

This is one reason vegans would rather throw out food with traces of animal products than eat it, even though it has no effect on the environment or animals at that point — eating it would tarnish the shiny green V seared onto their souls. [Though there is another more practical concern here too. Vegans become so conditioned against animal products over time, even the thought of eating something with a little bit of whey powder in it makes them nauseated.]

Veganism keeps vegans pure, and in return, vegans keep veganism pure. They do this by policing the terms vegan and vegetarian, pulling the alarm when an impostor slips by. Vegetarians who eat fish and sometimes even chicken are the most common intruders, but sometimes a particularly bold omnivore will dare to call herself a vegan while not avoiding animal products as strictly as a vegan should.

For instance, a vegan message board once fretted about a site for “chill vegans”, vegans who don’t go out of their way to eat meat or dairy, but who don’t panic if little bits of animal product sneak past their vegetable decimating jaws. The chill vegan site no longer exists, but the threat still lurks. Fake vegans and vegetarians are a menace to the sacred labels they incorrectly apply to themselves, and to those who are actually worthy of the veg*n insignia.

Therefore, self-proclaimed vegans and vegetarians who don’t strictly obey the rules are on the vegan shitlist.

Vegans wouldn’t normally care too much about what happens with vegetarians, since vegans consider themselves in a totally different category than their less-consistent, udder-sucking, egg-thieving backwoods cousins. But vegans know that to most meat eaters, all non-meat eaters are pretty much the same, so if omnivores want in on the coveted vegetarian label, it won’t be long before the vegan label is under siege as well.

Vegans say that the main problem is confusion. When the meaning of the veg*an label is diluted, it causes very real inconveniences. A vegan might request a vegan meal for a wedding reception, and the well-meaning host who only knows so-called vegetarians who eat fish might have a nice eel sashimi prepared for the vegan. “I’m vegan, I don’t eat eel,” the vegan would be forced to say. “Are you sure?” The host would ask. “My daughter’s a vegan, and she eats eel.” “Then your bitch daughter’s not a fucking vegan!” the vegan would have no choice but to scream, ruining the night for everyone.

But what really gets vegans more than the confusion is the diminishing of their own sacrifice. Since any positive effects a vegan’s consumption choices might have on the world are invisible, the label itself becomes the goal. To claim the label without earning it is cheating. True vegans eschew all animal products all the time to earn that V pin they put on their backpack, yet these bastard fake vegans and vegetarians get all the glory with none of the work.

As eatyourveggies says, “Sounds like she wants the label without making the necessary sacrifces. Vegetarianism is not a fad, people, it’s a lifestyle that I think most of us believe demands 100% commitment if you truly care about the animals.”

If nobody knows or cares what “vegan” means, how is a vegan to know who they are anymore?

So if you’re desperate to get on the vegan shitlist, don’t wave meat in front of vegans and tell them how delicious it is — wave meat in front of vegans while wearing a “Vegan” t-shirt and bragging about what a chill vegan you are. Ooh, they would really fucking hate that.