Should Freegans Be Vegan?

A vexing question for animal rights advocates is what to do about non-vegan food and other non-vegan items recovered from trash. For many, the term “freegan” has inaccurately come to mean people who will eat animal products if they can obtain them without purchasing them, overshadowing the critique that freeganism offers of mainstream consumerism. In fact, there are freegans who ARE strictly vegan, and others who are not.

One perspective holds that anything from an animal source, no matter how obtained, should be shunned, because consuming such products legitimizes the idea of using animals as a raw material.

Others feel that to waste products of animals exploitation makes the death and suffering of the animals exploited for them even more meaningless. Moreover, consuming animal products from trash does nothing to support the corporations who benefit from animal exploitation. By not consuming these products, we are just taking up more landfill space. For those who see foraging as a way to rekindle our connection to ancient human foragers, it is compelling to note that even before humans hunted, it is not unlikely that they occasionally consumed the remains of an animal killed and partially eaten by a carnivore.

Some freegans recognize that there is nothing MORALLY wrong with eating animal products from trash, but are simply turned off by the idea of eating an animal. Some of these folks will eat foods that have subtle animal ingredients, muffins for example, but won’t eat anything as blatant as a milk shake or a chicken breast. Others choose to abstain from animal ingredients for strictly health reasons.

Because many freegans reject the distinction between vegan and non-vegan goods, recognizing the violence inherent in ALL consumer products produced under industrial capitalism they do not view eating exclusively vegan goods as a “pure” position. Freegans are more interested in our economic relationship with the goods we eat, with the degree to which we actively contribute to the financial well being of these oppressive industries, than they are in drawing imaginary lines between certain goods whose production harm the planet and human and non-human animals called “animal products” and other goods whose production by current methods also harm the planet and human and non-human animals, called “vegan.”

Regardless of one’s position on the ethical appropriateness of eating recovered animal products, one thing is clear: eating dumpstered food‚Äì any dumpstered food‚Äì causes less suffering to animals, less destruction of our planet, and less exploitation of workers‚Äì than even the most responsibly produced, vegan, organic store-bought items.