There are very good reasons to NOT discourage the eating of dumpstered meat.
Let’s face it, some people will not give up eating meat. If freegans tell them there is a way that they can continue consuming animal products without economically supporting factory farming, they just might go for it.
What do animal industries care about? Profit. What will drive them out of business? Lack of profit. They don’t care what you eat as long as you give them MONEY. If people aren’t giving them money, they lose profit, which is the incentive for them to continue horribly cruel animal agribiz practices.
Up to half of all food grown, including factory farmed animal products, is wasted (see food waste facts). Think about how many animals’ lives could be saved just by reducing waste. If freegans could convince every meat eater we know to dumpster their meat, animal agribiz would lose profits. Overproducing would be less economically viable. A less profitable industry would have less money for “lobbying” and would thus lose some measure of influence, which could lead to cuts in subsidies, which would drive up costs for producers. This would make waste more expensive, would drive up the retail cost of meat, and could in turn result in fewer people buying animal products, as they get them from dumpsters or give them up entirely.
Freeganism is an broad ranging response to a wasteful, profit-driven culture. Even if people are unaware of the animal rights issues with factory farming, but are concerned about labor exploitation in the products we buy, the ecological impacts of overconsumption and waste, the injustice of wasting resources while others’ basic needs aren’t met, or simply are frugal, freegan living offers an appealing set of practices.
Many vegans tend to thing of lifestyle reform in a fairly linear way– meat eater to vegetarian to vegan. Since freeganism seems more radical than veganism, some have trouble grasping the idea that people would be willing to do something as socially transgressive as eating garbage if they aren’t willing to do something as easy as giving up meat. It’s important for vegans to remember that people have different priorities, different comfort zones, and different values, formed by culture, level of economic privilege and personal experience. Many people are more flexible on where they get their food than they are on what they eat. Vegans may feel giving up animal products is simple, but chances are, they can also afford dinners at vegan restaurants as well as expensive convenience products that often substitute for meat and dairy in their diets.
Of course, it’s a good idea to keep educating on the benefits of healthy and ethical eating, because we don’t want a situation where, when less meat is available from the dumpsters, people go back to buying it from stores. And many people won’t go freegan, but WILL go vegan. Through a combination of freegan and vegan outreach strategies, animal rights and social justice activists can hit the industry from several directions at once.
In time, meagans may be convinced of the benefits of vegan living. Or not. Either way, the meat industry isn’t making a dime off of them.
If freegans (and animal rights-motivated vegans) shift the focus to thinking strategically about how to destroy corporate animal agribiz, a whole new range of considerations come into play. And that’s the goal, right? –not gloating over one’s personal purity or being judgmental, but helping to destroy the industries that are causing so much suffering.