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lil tankWrote:

Written by Adam Weissman (everyone's favorite!!)

 

 

 

A lot of animal rights people are hostile to freeganism because of a common misuse of the term. You know the one-- the one about the person who's usually vegan, but then someone gives her half a ham sandwich, and since she didn't pay for it, says it's "freegan" and eats it. Basically, someone looking for loopholes to still eat meat.

 

 

 

Freegan.info, our NYC freegan outreach group and website, uses the term freegan pretty much to mean someone who, based on an objection to capitalism and the exploitation and it creates (factory farming, animal testing, sweatshops, forest destruction, global warming, war, etc.), finds ways to live outside the money economy by making use of wasted resources-- discarded goods (for food, clothing, literature, etc), abandoned buildings (for squats), vacant lots (for gardens), etc.

 

 

 

When I first heard the term freegan it was also in the context of the less flattering definition-- the vegan looking for loopholes. I don't remember when I first heard the word, but I do remember the first time I heard it used in the more positive sense. It was around 1995 or so in Seattle, Washington, I was describing my lifestyle and the person I was with, an activist with the Northwest Animal Rights Network told me I was a freegan. I think at the time I chalked up the difference between the very unflattering definition I'd heard and the much more appealing way he was understood the word to regional differences in usage.

 

 

 

For years thereafter, I wouldn't identify with the term because of the negative associations many vegans have with the word, based on the more negative definition. Over time I came to the belief that in fact the definition freegan.info uses is in reality the correct one, and that the other usage has come from people who have misunderstood the concept explaining the term to others and then them passing on that incorrect definition ad infinitum.

 

 

 

My guess as to what happened was that strict vegans were dismayed to see people eating dumpstered animal products and upon demanding why people concerned about animals rights were eating such things got the response "It's freegan." Which, of course, is true-- any food that is dumpstered is freegan food. Of course, the eating of nonvegan dumpstered food is not the DEFINITION of freegan, any more than the definition of a vegan is someone who eats broccoli. Some freegans eat dumpstered meat. Others are strictly vegan even with the things they dumpster. Just as some vegans eat broccoli and others, I imagine, don't like it. Being freegan neither requires or procludes someone from eating dumpstered anything.

 

 

 

That said, many freegans are freegans because of the exploitative practices that are responsible for the creation of everyday goods. They don't draw imaginary lines between meat made out of tortured animals or grapes grown by severely exploited workers or coffee grown on formerly rainforest land that was clearcut for plantation or cranberries grown in bogs where beavers are beaten to death as "agricultural pests." To a freegan, anything we buy within a society that treats lives as exploitable commodities is morally suspect, and recovering things without driving demand for further production of these commodities with our dollars is a moral imperative. To many freegans, eating steak from the trash seems FAR more ethical than buying vegan foods whose production supports a myriad of forms of exploitation rarely considered by most vegans.

 

 

 

In fact, for me the single most compelling reason to start recovering wasted food was ANIMAL RIGHTS! I'd spent years trying to live more ethically, trying to limit the violence towards animals in my lifestyle. I went veg, then vegan, then shifted to eating only organic, mostly raw food. I was concerned about all the animals killed by pesticides in conventional agriculture--including the insects and other invertebrates who are too often ignored in the animal rights community.

 

 

 

As I learned more about organic agriculture, though, I came to realize that even organic wasn't perfect. I found an article in Animals' Agenda magazine called "Organic: Better, but Not Benign, " by a garden talking about how even using organic gardening methods, she was still killing lots of insects. I started reading organic gardening magazines and learned that killing animals was a commonplace organic gardening method (and common in non-organic gardening, too.) Shooting, trapping, poisoning, and drowning are used to kill all manner of creatures from tiny insects to large mammals like deer. Even a form of biological warfare is used-- because organic farmers cannot use petroleum pesticides, many release live bacteria to destroy insects.

 

 

 

Around this time, a high school teacher made a comment about how animals are chopped to bits and crushed in the process of harvesting corn made me increasingly aware of the impact that tilling soil and harvesting crops have on the enormous numbers of animals that live on farmland. This point was actually the focus of a recent study that argued at Oregon State University (details at http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=97836&page=1) that actually conducted a study of the impact of farming on wildlife and concluded that eating pasture raised beef would actually result in LESS animal deaths than eating a standard vegan diet.

 

 

 

Hunting writer Ted Kerasote raised additional questions about the cruelty-free nature of a veg*an diet. In Bloodties: Nature, Culture, and the Hunt "What exactly does "the least harm possible" mean? Does it mean becoming a fossil fuel vegetarian -- those people who with a clear conscience buy vegetables at the supermarket, never realizing that America's factory farms, intensively subsidized by petroleum from the wellhead to the combine and on to the interstate highway system, inflict an enormous toll on wildlife as they grow and deliver such seemingly benign products as cereal, bread, beans and milk? Or does doing the least harm possible mean becoming an organic farmer, growing everything one needs alongside one's house? Could it mean hunting and gathering the animals and plants of one's bioregion?"

 

 

 

Of course, as animal advocates, we reject both the raising of beef on pasturelands and hunting. But if indeed our lifestyles are even MORE destructive than these practices, then we are obligated to question whether their isn't some other alternative, one that is better than hunting, better than pasture raised beef eating, and better than what Kerosote calls "fossil fuel vegetarianism."

 

 

 

From reading about a very unusual system of agriculture called "veganic gardening," a system which uses plant matter for fertilizer, I learned that the vegan crops that we eat are grown in animal ag by-products like manure and ground animal bones (a.k.a bonemeal). And this is especially true on organic farms, since they don't use chemical fertilizers. So by being a vegan consumer, I was actually creating more profits for factory farmers!

 

 

 

For the average vegan this is an uncomfortable message-- it suggests that instead of pointing fingers at others, they need to look more deeply at their own consumption practices. It's always easier to blame others than be accountable, so I suspect that many vegans conveniently ignored the broader politics of freegans to focus in on criticizing the small minority of freegans who eat meat. As a result, freeganism in their mind came to mean someone who will eat meat if its going to waste-- a "cheater."

 

 

 

Anyway, this is my theory.

 

 

 

If you look at the essay "Why Freegan?", the oldest writing I've found on the subject of freeganism, it offers a definition very similar to the one used by Freegan.info. You can see for yourself at http://freegan.info.

 

 

So in the end, maybe it would just be simpler to come up with a whole new word, since there is so much confusion about this one. But at the same time, this word was created to mean something, and part of me wants to reclaim it rather than cede it to people who don't understand it, feel threatened by it, or both. I also label myself an anarchist without apology, even though many people have negative associations with THAT term...

 

 

 

To further explore freeganism go to www.freegan.info or email [email protected]

 

 

 

If you are in NYC, consider attending these freegan events:

 

 

 

Sunday, November 27th, Buy Nothing Everyday! Dumpster 101

 

An event especially for newcomers. Join us for a brief discussion on freeganism and a trash tour exploring the massive amount of usable food and other goods that is wasted every day. If you wanted to try dumpster diving but couldn’t bring yourself to do it on your own, join us for Dumpstering 101 in honor of Buy Nothing Day. Media will NOT be allowed at the event so don’t worry about getting caught on camera....

 

 

 

When and Where?

 

We’ll meet at 8:30PM at Herald Square Market on the east side of 6th Ave. btwn.

 

35th and 36th Sts. in their seating area. At 9:30PM we’ll leave for the trash tour.

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 7th, Freegan meeting and trash tour

 

Join us for a meeting to discuss spreading freegan values and practices. After, we will visit nearby supermarkets and other shops for a dumpster diving tour. The meeting is NOT open to media, but media reps may attend the trash tour. The meeting is at 7:30PM at Happy Time deli on the east side of 5th Ave. btwn. 35th and 36th Sts. in the rear seating area. To just come for the trash tour meet us at 9PM in front of the grocery on the west side of 3rd Ave. btwn. 38th & 39th Sts.

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 14th, Dumpster Diving 101

 

Another event to welcome newcomers. Join us for a brief discussion on freeganism and a introductory trash tour. Media will NOT be allowed at the event so don’t worry about getting caught on camera....

 

 

 

When and Where?

 

We’ll meet at 8pm at Herald Square Market on the east side of 6th Ave. btwn. 35th and 36th Streets.

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 21st, Freegan Meeting and Trash Trailblazing

 

Join us for a second meeting to plan upcoming freegan events and outreach. Afterwards we’ll try new neighborhoods for trash trailblazing. Media will NOT be welcome at either the meeting or the tour, so anyone wanting to avoid the public eye should come along!

 

 

 

When and Where?

 

The meeting is at 7:30PM at the Bobcat Lounge in NYU’s Bobst Library at 70 Washington Square South; go in the doors and go directly to your left. To just come for the trash tour, meet at 9PM at the northeast corner of Mercer and 3rd.

 

 

 

So I took this off a myspace forum. If you want to talk about freegans thats good but im much more interested on your thoughts/comments about the Oregon State study (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=97836&page=1) which claimed a meat diet would actually cause less harm than a vegan diet. I read the article and I think their study was misguided. It points to corn, wheat, barley and soybean as staples for a vegan diet. I wonder if they looked at what cows are feed...

The article asserts we all must take blame for the destruction of life, and that is a valid point to make, but to try to say that because the cow only dies once to feed some people, vs. many smaller animals die to feed larger numbers of people on a vegetarian diet. The theory i have is that as many animals die to feed the cow as the number of people that could have been fed on the grain fed to the cow, then the cow is also killed. I've had this argument before with someone to turned away from veganism, I guess they believed this "study." I'd also like to get the actual study, secondhand reporting on these things is not very reliable, so if anyone has a link put it up, if not i'll try to find it.

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I'd say that may have something to do with the location of OSU. Rob, Toph, and Meg can probably explain more. It's not that I don't like the place. I just don't know that it's nestled in a valley of liberal thought.

 

As for freegans. I don't think it's a vegan looking for loopholes. I think some people are poor and will eat whatever is given to them or maybe whatever they dive for, and the latter I really can't see any problem with ethically. It's going to waste so you consume it. Sure it's awful product of death etc. But still it's food, meanwhile people are then less hungry and it saves on waste - right?

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Many of those who responded to the post on myspace maintained that most freegans were vegan, and that the loophole vegans is a misconception. You can do with freeganism what you like i suppose. Being a vegan means abstaining from animal products, free or not. If anyone goes for the "loophole" you cant be a vegan bodybuilder anymore.

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Duh!! In order to feed cows, you have to farm the food. And given that you feed the cow many months-worth of plants, then lots more animals will die per pound of flesh than per pound of plants. Also, dairy cows will live for a long time being fed on plants, which requires constant harvesting of whatever it is they're being fed.

 

Sustainability isn't a reason for eating meat, that's just so backwards! That's the kind of thing that idiots say to 'get out of' having to go vegan. They're pretending they do care about sustainability, and saying that's the REASON why they're NOT vegan. Rather than accepting that meat-eating is bogus, and that they're an inconsiderate person.

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I totally agree Richard.

 

By the way, everybody, I have to write a paper on the environmental dimensions of eating meat (pros and cons) so please keep the links, info, and ideas coming on this thread.

 

Specifically, the question I have to address is why veganism and animal rights should be a key part of the environmental movement.

 

We all know where we stand (pro vegan), but if anybody can point me to sonme scholarly articles, books, etc with both sides on the issue, would be very helpful.

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Nobody's hands are free from the blood of other animals, not even vegetarians, he concluded. Millions of animals are killed every year, Davis says, to prepare land for growing crops, "like corn, soybean, wheat and barley, the staples of a vegan diet."

 

The animals in this case are mice and moles and rabbits and other creatures that are run over by tractors, or lose their habitat to make way for farming, so they are not as "visible" as cattle, he says.

 

And that, Davis says, gives rise to a fundamental question: "What is it that makes it OK to kill animals of the field so that we can eat [vegetables or fruits] but not pigs or chickens or cows?"

 

This is an interesting argument. If you're comparing a bowl of shredded wheat to a piece of steak, there is absolutely no question which of the two impacts animals' lives and the environment more. I don't think the author is insinuating differently. However, he has made me wonder if I might have reduced my impact further, had I chosen an apple instead of the shredded wheat. I think it would have.

 

Freeganism is a total boycott of an economic system where the profit motive has eclipsed ethical considerations and where massively complex systems of productions ensure that the products we buy will have detrimental impacts we may never even consider.

 

Perhaps "freegan" is a misnomer, and defining freeganism as type of veganism is a mistake. I don't see freeganism (contributing as little as possible to the economic system) and veganism (contributing as little as possible to animal cruelty) as synonymous. For example, in my previous shredded wheat vs. steak scenario, if the steak came from a dumpster and the shredded wheat involved a trip to the store, the freegan might be outraged that a vegan would make a purchase and support the economic system, rather than eating the steak. The vegan would be outraged at the freegan for eating an animal.

 

I don't see a freegan as a vegan looking for a loophole, I see them as someone who has a slightly different set of prevailing values. What freeganism and veganism share is the goal to, through our daily choices, reduce our impact on the earth and those we share it with as much as possible. Whether I agree or not with the method of achieving that goal, I applaud the goal.

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  • 5 weeks later...

I found a lot of good info on freegansm here http://freegan.info

 

I respect what they are trying to do but I don't really see the greater benefit. Yes they are not consuming animal products or "bad" company products or even modified food products but I think a big part of being vegan is to... sort of teach by example. Many people are conscious that it is healthier and more ethical to become vegetarian and vegan, many people have a strong interest in being vegan but the misconceptions of veganism keeps them from making the change. So, when people meet a vegan for the first time, they will have that image of “Vegan” which that person projects.

 

for example, if some random, average meat eating person that has thought about becoming vegan meets some one like Robert or Topher, well they will definitely be incline to make the change. On the other hand, if the same person comes a cross a freegan while they are dumpster diving for eggplant, well, I don't think they will be thinking about becoming vegan ever again. I don't know if I'm making sense.

 

Thats why I always refer people to this site when someone tells me “isn’t it unhealthy to be vegan”.

 

I still respect what they are trying to do but I’m not sure it is really the most dignifying of ways to changing the world, I rather they grow their own food instead of risking their health.

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I think a big part of being vegan is to... sort of teach by example. Many people are conscious that it is healthier and more ethical to become vegetarian and vegan, many people have a strong interest in being vegan but the misconceptions of veganism keeps them from making the change. So, when people meet a vegan for the first time, they will have that image of “Vegan” which that person projects.

 

I agree.

 

People so much have the tendency to base their image of vegans on whatever vegan they happen to meet. Or, even worse, on media protrayals of vegans as "radical," "weird," "hippy-dippy," "tatooed/pierced and unwashed," "angry," "overly-emotional and illogical," "weak and (if a man) overly effeminate,"or whatever.

 

That's why I like the "typical vegan" campaign that some group (?) started: to show that there is no such thing!

 

 

Just looking at the pictures in that article, I can't see how "freegans" differ from "bums"? Of course, that's how the media would like to portray them, because they differ from the status quo.

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