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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Freeganism is a lifestyle based around the belief that almost all work and monetary exchanges within a capitalist economy contribute to myriad 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.

Basic beliefs

"Freegan", a Portmanteau 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 shipping;
  • 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.

Freegan practices

There is some confusion as to what constitute freegan practices, and numerous misconceptions.


"Why Freegan"

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. Freegans' motivations are varied and numerous; some do it for religious reasons, some for environmental reasons, and others do it to embrace the philosophy as a political statement (a short documentary film, Bin Appetit, takes us into the reasons why people become freegans).

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.


Dumpster diving or skipping
Dumpster diving or skipping

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 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.

Objections to freeganism

Some feel that the freeganism is inherently unsustainable because it does not economically support alternatives; it avoids making an explicit statement about food of animal origin; and it presents difficulty in determining the 'freeness' of food, (i.e. 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).

Freegans argue that this view represents a fundamental misunderstanding of a key concern of freeganism — that freegan consumption does not drive further demand for the purchase of additional products. 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 by eating buffet food or having someone give a freegan food that was paid for, in the process generating income for exploitative producers, would not be considered freegan.

Many freegans also argue that those who criticise freeganism for not explicitly condemning the consumption of animal products are in denial of the harm to animals involved in the creation of commercially-produced vegan foods. They argue that the primary consideration of consumers should be the impact of their consumption. Buying both vegan and non-vegan products directly subsidizes abusive practices. Recovering products, whether vegan or non-vegan, does not. Many freegans who are willing to consume non-vegan foods would not be willing to consume these foods if doing so would facilitate further exploitation of animals, and they see their consumption of animal products as a reaction to the waste of an overconsumptive society, not as the sort of diet that would be recommended in a non-wasteful society.

Others feel that freeganism is ethically sound, but is too "extreme" to appeal to most people, and may even alienate people by extension from practices like veganism.


  • Koala: Why Freegan, 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

See also

  • Simple living
  • Tax resistance
  • Itinerant
  • List of subsistence techniques
  • Food Not Bombs: an organization based on freegan principles
  • Crimson Fist Party: said to half-jokingly hold vegetarians, vegans, and freegans as "the rebel gourmets."

External links

  • Freegan discussion group
  • Freeganism discussion group
  • Freegans discussion group
  • Freegan Kitchen, a cooking video blog
  • How to Drop Out - 2004 article by Ran Prieur
  • 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
  • Live4Free, A holistic approach to eating, living, travelling, etc., FOR FREE
  • Interview with Adam Weissman about freeganism - small WORLD Podcast 2006
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