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.