Freegan [Part 1]: dismissing the term, expanding the vegan

'Dream All The Days' by Pete Yahnke Railand from the Justseeds Artists' Cooperative

If you look it up in Wikipedia the first sentence appears to say that ‘Freeganism’ is “The practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded.” Although the same article elaborates the different aspects of the topic later on, for Freegan Kolektiva (FK) the notion of ‘freegan’ is much broader, centered around our position on consumption and extended to all the issues that surround it (food ethics, ways of production, waste etc.). Hence, it is an everyday critical ‘belief & practice’ system; it is essentially a way of life.

In FK we stand in opposition to categorizations, labels and any form of prejudice. Then why did we choose such a name that includes the word ‘Freegan’? Well, the main issue that we wanted to work on was originally ‘Veganism’. Being a vegan myself for a few years and member of vegan groups and organizations I increasingly felt that although ‘veganism’ is a crucial element of change it is not the sole one; there are many more issues that are significant in the food system e.g. sustainable agriculture, food sovereignty, crop diversity, access to land which are interlinked to wider processes like environmental justice, degradation of nature, unequal distribution of wealth, over-consumption, market and corporate dominance etc. Veganism raises serious concerns albeit falls short of challenging all these issues; in this sense we believe that ‘freeganism’ is its logical extension. ‘Freegan’ is a much broader term that defies by default strict definitions and classifications. It is a very ‘sticky’, catchy word – a portmanteau of ‘free’ and ‘vegan’.

I was using the word ‘freegan’ at least for a couple of months before I found out surprisingly that it has been an established word used by some people at least since the mid-1990’s. It was one of those nights back in 2008 when, at the time we were happily cycling home with some bags of freshly-skipped foods after raiding the dumpsters of a supermarket, a friend called me ‘freegan’. It made immediately so much sense to me! In retrospect, I think he knew about ‘freeganism’, but back then I thought it was a spontaneous combination of words that perfectly described what we were doing! That to say that ‘freegan’ can convey a powerful meaning that can be readily understood by anyone. It makes sense, whether one is a vegan or not.

Another point is that although vegans generally stand on the active part of society I felt that veganism is becoming just another form of consumerism (though much improved). For example, some organizations that promote veganism advocate the replacement of meat and animal products with vegan ones. For us, being vegan means much more than replacing a beef burger with a veggie burger. Also McDonald’s offer veggie burgers, but it is not the way we want to go! Of course, veggie burgers are ‘suffering-free’ and a fair choice for a vegan newcomer but what should be ultimately suggested is a fundamentally different approach to food ethics and eating. We just do not feel comfortable with all those processed foods in the hypermarkets and the malls (even if they are made of soya not milk), all those food conglomerates that appropriate the means to food production and determine what our food is, all those food scandals, patents on food and life, global hunger, food waste etc. etc. It is a systemic error, not limited to the exploitation of animals.

I have met people that follow veganism as a doctrine; as part of an affluent, overabundant lifestyle that is reinforced by the ‘feel-good’ factor of eating ‘cruelty-free’. Therefore, some vegans stop there; they do not want to ‘go dirty’ with these complicated issues that plague our food system and degrade our lives. Although I have been vegan for some time I have been following my own version of ‘veganism’, my personal beliefs that determine what I eat and what I do not. I became a vegan after being active on many food issues and studying agriculture so I never felt the need to follow any strict lines of thinking.

Another point of difference is that ‘veganism’ as ‘vegetarianism’ in their modern sense are lifestyles predominantly popular in the Global West e.g. the advanced North European countries. The strain of ‘veganism’ they propose fits mainly the modern day consumer in these countries and as such it is being spread around the world. In contrast, food is central in my culture: it carries multiple ‘hard-wired’ values, it is the ‘glue’ of family and social life, cooking at home is an indispensable everyday activity, traditional foods are still prepared and cherished etc. A vegan in my culture would not be satisfied with only veggie burgers or tofu; there is a rich traditionally vegan cuisine as part of the Mediterranean nutrition. Therefore, in this case, veganism is very different, aligned to the traditional diet; together combined they form a powerful synergy.

At this point I need to make myself clear: I still feel part of the vegan movement and Freegan Kolektiva is going to be actively promoting a vegan way of life. I am grateful, for all the vegans that I have met so far; they are first individuals and friends, then vegans. I acknowledge the crucial work of vegan organizations and I still want to carry out their work. I believe that our relation to animals is a sensitive issue that needs to be addressed by specific organizations.

Freegan Kolektiva follows its own type of ‘veganism’ and ‘freeganism’ or more precisely its own distinct values which are self-determined and could be abstractly communicated as ‘freegan’.We want to unite with other freegan or vegan groups, but keep our own integrity and autonomy. This struggle is diverse, yet fueled by unity! Although we want to go beyond the world of terms and logos, we apologize for still using them – they serve as means to understand each other and become free of their use.


2 thoughts on “Freegan [Part 1]: dismissing the term, expanding the vegan

  1. “Freegan Kolektiva follows its own type of ‘veganism’…”

    What is meant by this? How is it different?

    I guess I’m specifically wondering if you eat non-vegan freegan food (NVFF). That’s something I write about a lot on my site.

    Take care and I’ll be following your posts.


    • thank you so much for the interest!

      I browsed quickly your blog and I think it is quite thought – provoking! I will have a more thorough look and I hope we can have a constructive dialogue!

      Why FK’s version of veganism is different:

      -We avoid processed ingredients – even vegan. We are about producing your own food, recycling food from the bins, kitchen activism etc.

      -We are interested in preserving food traditions while creating new.

      -We are interested in sustainability – eating local, organic etc.

      -We have our own values and ethics, that is why we do not want to inherit any moral system that is promoted by others. We are open, getting influenced, taking the positive out of it. (Most of the vegans I know are also quite open-minded actually – veganism has been actually a step towards compassion and wider consciousness).

      the points are actually countless; we just feel that our style of freeganism is more encompassing ans a step beyond veganism.

      I have been consuming animal products (not meat) from the trash (only from the trash!) in cases the amount of saved foods is enormous (which happened quite often – e.g. 30 1liter cartons of organic milk) and they are surely going to get wasted with the following strategy: I give to my friends-family-neighbors and only if there are leftovers that are surely going to be thrown I get some…I just focus on the skipped veggies, fruits etc. which are also many :))))

      But I am only one person out of 4 behind this group – I cannot answer for everybody since some people do not dumpster dive…
      we are all different and accept each other choices in this group.

      I will read more your work and talk back soon!!!
      have nice time until then!

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