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Freeganism is a lifestyle based around the belief that almost all work and monetary exchanges within a capitalist economy contribute to a myriad of forms of exploitation - worker abuse, animal exploitation, hunger, ecological destruction, mass incarceration, war, inequitable distribution of resources, commodification of women - almost all issues addressed by social, ecological, and animal rights advocacy groups.
- Workers were not exploited in the product's production
- Pesticides were not used in its growing
- Non-renewable resources, E.G. Petroleum, were not used in its production and shipping
- Rainforest was not cleared to generate plantation land
- that wildlife was not harmed in its production
- It is not packaged wastefully
Freegans argue that people sincerely committed to living the "cruelty-free" lifestyle espoused by vegans must strive to abstain not only from eating, wearing, and using animal skins, secretions (I.E. milk and its byproducts), flesh, and animal-tested products, but must strive to the greatest degree possible to remove themselves from participation in the capitalist economy altogether as workers and consumers.
In contrast to veganism, which has a very clear-cut list of "dos" and "don'ts", freeganism is a philosophy of living, a range of living strategies, a community, a culture, and an ideal, rather than a set of rules. Freegans recognize that because freeganism is far more expansive than veganism, while it is fairly easy to completely adhere to the traditionally defined "rules" of veganism, it is almost impossible to be freegan in all ways at all times. Freegans focus less on individual purity and more on building collective projects to facilitate freegan living strategies.
Many freegans are anarchists and identify with libertarian communist ideals of voluntary cooperation and mutual aid, and place a strong emphasis on forging socially and ecologically sustainable and egalitarian communities.
There is some confusion as to what constitute freegan practices, and numerous misconceptions.
Even the pamphlet "Why Freegan", the nearest thing to a freegan movement "bible" is confusing in defining what exactly constitutes freeganism. On the one hand it defines freeganism as "an anti-consumeristic ethic about eating," and goes on to describe practices including dumpster diving, plate scraping, wild foraging, gardening, shoplifting, employee scams, and barter as alternatives to paying for food.
The pamphlet does include a lengthy section on non-food related practices, including solar energy, conserving water, carlessness, Precycling and reusing goods. This has created some disagreement as to whether these non-food practices are components of the freegan ethic, or are simply compatible practices with freeganism. Freegans rarely give serious concern to semantical hair-splitting, and such questions are largely irrelevant since most freegans also employ some or all of these non-food practices regardless of whether or not they fall under the "freegan" label.
Freeganism in practice
Many freegans get free food by pulling it out of the trash, a practice commonly nicknamed dumpster diving in North America or skipping in the UK Freegans find ample amounts of clean, edible food in the garbage of restaurants, grocery stores, and other food-related industries, and this allows them to avoid spending money on products that exploit the world's resources, contribute to urban sprawl, treat workers unfairly, or disregard animal rights. By foraging, they prevent edible food from contributing to landfills and sometimes feed people and animals who might otherwise go hungry. Many freegans claim that they are able to eat very well, and even avoid paying for food altogether, due to this practice. Many vegan dumpster divers come to embrace freeganism in order to utilize more of the thrown-out food they find, which would otherwise be needlessly wasted.
Food Not Bombs is an organization based widely on freegan principles.
Some freegans, sometimes called "meagans", consume meat and other animal products as long as they would otherwise be wasted; others are strict vegans. Meagans argue that since even seemingly benign products are produced exploitatively under captialism, there is nothing "pure" about a vegan diet.
Since captalism is fueled by the exchange of capital, using wasted goods creates no further demand for production. Meagans see using wasted animal products not as supporting animal slaughter and exploitation, but rather as diverting waste from landfills. Some even argue that allowing animal corpses to end up in landfills shows disrespect for animals lives, and that they should at least ensure that their bodies remain part of the food chain and that their deaths weren't in vain by serving as food rather than as waste. Many vegan freegans do not in principle disagree with this argument, but, coming from vegan backgrounds, consider animal products unhealthy, and unappetizing. Another important point is that animal products decay faster than many vegetable products, so it may be impractical and unhealthy to eat such products gained through dumpster diving.
Objections to Freeganism
Some pro-shopping vegans feel that the freeganism is inherently unsustainable because: it does not economically support non-animal alternatives; it avoids making an explicit statement about food of animal origin; and it presents difficulty in determining the 'freeness' of food, ie. food taken without permission from a buffet table may be free to the recipient, but it has the potential to create a shortage for others attending the buffet who might later fulfill their food needs by purchasing animal-based food. A common derogatory term for freegans is "Opportunivore".
Freegans argue that this view represents a fundamental misunderstanding of a key concern of freegans--that freegan consumption not drive further demand for the purchase of additional products. For example, some freegans argue that shoplifting is not truly freegan because it runs the risk of encouraging stores to order more products to replace stolen goods, thus driving increased demand. To freegans, it is not enough to simply "get something for free", but rather that their consumption not inject more dollars into the capitalist economy. Proxying payment to someone else and in the process generating income for exploitative producers would not be considered freegan.
Other vegans feel that freeganism is ethically sound, but is too "extreme" to appeal to most people, and may even alienate people by extension from less radical practices like veganism.
- Why Freegan Koala, Publication date unknown. (Added to the Internet February 2002) URL accessed June 5 2006
- 'Freegans' choose to eat garbage Tucker Carlson, MSNBC, February 3 2006 URL accessed February 24 2006
- "Freegan" Dumpster Diving Reveals America's Colossal Waste of Food Nicole Bergot, Newsday, September 29 2004 URL accessed February 24 2006
- Rubbish meals a gourmet treat for freegan diners Richard Luscombe, The Scotsman, November 25 2005 URL accessed February 24 2006
- Freegan discussion group
- Freeganism discussion group
- Freegans discussion group
- Freegan Kitchen, a cooking video blog
- How to Drop Out
- Evasion, a freegan memoir
- Skip Dipping in Australia
- "Freegans forage for food in bins," Reuters article
- "Free Lunch," Houston Press article
- The Global Free Economy Project
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