What is Freeganism?
Freeganism is a way of life based around the belief that almost all work and monetary exchanges within a capitalist economy contribute to myriad forms of exploitation such as 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.
"Freegan", a combination of "free" and "vegan", is derived from the observation that even a vegan lifestyle is not free of exploitation.
A product's vegan provenance does not guarantee that:
- Workers were not exploited in the product's production;
- Pesticides were not used in its growing;
- Non-renewable resources (like petroleum), were not used in production and
- Rainforest was not cleared to generate plantation land;
- Wildlife was not harmed in production; nor that
- Wasteful packaging was not used.
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 (e.g. 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.
Similarly to veganism, freeganism is a philosophy of living, a range of living strategies, a community, a culture, and an ideal.
As with veganism it is almost impossible to be freegan in all ways at all times.
Many freegans are anarchists and identify with libertarian socialist ideals of voluntary cooperation and mutual aid, and place a strong emphasis on forging socially and ecologically sustainable egalitarian communities.
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 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 adding 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 wasted.
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 capitalism, there is nothing "pure" about a vegan diet.
Since capitalism is fuelled 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 animal 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.