Why I Went Freegan for the Animals

There are lots of great reasons to go freegan, but it was animal rights that brought me there in the first place.

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 at Oregon State University ( Click here for a media account of the study) that examined 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. While another study has disputed this conclusion, Davis’ point that, ‚”vegan diets are not bloodless diets”, remains.

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!

Finally, when does our responsibility over the impact of our dollars end? I don’t remember if I thought of this at the time, but I recently read in an article about a person who was freegan because he disliked that the dollars he was spending on vegan food were going to pay for meat for the nonvegans he bought the food from.

By replacing retail consumerism with wild foraging, small-scale gentle gardening using no-till and veganic methods, and urban foraging/dumpster diving, we eliminate support for ALL the ways that production of the commodities we use exploit animals, not just those few that have been the focus of traditional veganism. We are pioneering a gentler and more careful relationship with animals, as we build a new culture based on sharing, cooperation, and respect for the earth and each other.