Vegan Gray Areas: Freeganism

In case you aren’t already aware, allow me to inform you that I am a 30 year old lady. In my adult life I have seen so many new words pop up and sometimes it gets to the point that I don’t even try to keep up with all of them. The first time I heard the word ‘freeganism’ I was not quick to take it seriously or research it. Sometimes these words are merely a trend that come and go with little long-term impact on the world (and I’m too old to bother learning them for sake of being hip- do people still say hip?). However, I kept seeing this word and it was often in association with veganism, so this piqued my interest. Now that I’ve learned a little more about it, I think it’s a concept worth knowing about.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Freeganism is based on reducing consumerism (focus on the word ‘free’). The more you learn about the world and what happens behind the scenes of the things you buy, the harder it gets to feel good about your choices as a consumer. I touched on this briefly in my post about Palm Oil. If you’re vegan, it’s probably because you learned about what animals actually go through to bring you 15 minutes of pleasure from a meal. Then you learn about deforestation and sustainability and try to avoid things like palm oil. And that seems hard enough. You go from eating whatever you want and suddenly your cutting out more and more things. But then maybe you go a step further. You learn that your phone and clothes came from a sweat shop, that the plastic from your straws and water bottles are polluting the ocean, and the alarming rate at which our incredible amounts of waste are causing landfills to, well, fill up. It’s exhausting. It feels like anything and everything you might want has a negative effect on someone or something. Once you know about it, you can’t exactly claim ignorance. It feels impossible to try to live within these margins, so we tend to push it out of our minds and go on living the way that is comfortable and familiar.

Many of us don’t have to see the impact of our disposable society. Out of sight, out of mind.
Image by Pasi Mäenpää from Pixabay

There is a pretty broad scale of commitment to this movement. It ranges from secondhand shopping, to dumpster diving, to squatting in abandoned buildings (which I’m aware seems pretty extreme to the average person). Now, obviously freeganism goes beyond the subject of food, but for the purpose of this entry I’d like to focus on the relationship between freeganism and veganism (freegan). Think about how much perfectly good food gets thrown away every day. As a vegan, if you go to a restaurant and order something without cheese, but they accidentally put it on anyway, what do you do? The cheese has already been used (the damage done) and slight increase to demand was made. If you don’t want to eat it, the food will be sent back, thrown away, and a fresh plate made. Now I understand why the presence of cheese would ruin a meal for many vegans, but in this scenario, sending back the food accomplishes nothing except wasting food. The standard vegan would still send the food back because they flat out refuse to eat animal products if they don’t have to. A freegan, on the other hand, would still never order animal products, but under these circumstances would eat the dish instead of sending it back in order to not waste food.

“Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.”

From <http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/>

“Around 9 million people die of hunger and hunger-related diseases every year.”

From <https://www.mercycorps.org/articles/quick-facts-what-you-need-know-about-global-hunger>

With the amount of food that goes to waste, imagine how many animals die only to ultimately be disgarded. Their lives taken for no reason.
Image by photosforyou from Pixabay

It doesn’t seem right does it? Now I realize that if someone is starving across the world, that isn’t going to change whether you eat the food with cheese on it or not. But sometimes, the right thing to do is merely a matter of principle. To say that I will not take the things I have for granted and I won’t act as though the commodities available to me are expendable. So, yeah, it can get overwhelming when you’re learning about all the atrocities in the world and how your purchases ultimately contribute to them. But, I think we need to throw away this all or nothing mentality. Do the best you can with what you know at the time. The animals who suffer from animal agriculture and polluted oceans, the people who endure inhumane working conditions, and the people who suffer from world hunger don’t have the luxury of deciding to not think about these things because they’re hard. The first step we can make towards a better world is to care enough to try.

Sources:

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