Is there a freegan challenge to veganism?

In Cheryl Abbate & Christopher Bobier (eds.), New Omnivorism and Strict Veganism: Critical Perspectives. New York: Routledge. pp. 35-51 (2023)
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Freeganism is the practice of eating food that is free. It is commonly associated with recovering food that grocery stores and restaurants have thrown away, but vegetables grown in one’s garden and other free foods, such as leftovers from a work event, would also qualify. It is worth asking whether there is a form of freeganism that can be justified in new omnivorist terms. Could it be consistent with animal protection to eat meat, just so long as we don’t pay for it? I argue that from an animal protection point of view, freegan meat consumption faces two difficulties. The first is that when it involves the consumption of animal flesh conventionally regarded as edible (chicken, pork, beef, etc.) but not other types of flesh commonly considered inedible (mice, dogs, etc.), the practice is likely to be rooted in speciesism. This runs contrary to new omnivorism’s own principles, which are anti-speciesist. In addition, when the meat in question is the product of animal agriculture, consuming it will amount to a form of complicity in the industry’s wrong-doing, as the rationale for the animal’s slaughter will be retroactively endorsed. Either of these two considerations taken by itself will suffice to generate a presumption against freegan meat consumption. My analysis, however, does not address every conceivable defense of freegan meat consumption. In particular, neither consideration generates a reason to avoid all animal by-products, such as eggs from backyard chickens that are well cared for. But given that the by-products in question will not be industrially produced, such consumption is likely to be permissible only in exceptional instances, rather than a practice available to society at large.

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Andy Lamey
University of California, San Diego


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