A Question I Was Asked

'Is "Freeganism" a New Religious Cult?'

Here is the actual question:

"I have started to hear a lot about the 'Freegans' and 'Freeganism' - a recent TV feature seemed to portray them as an extreme Christian-based cult. Any truth in that? Who are they and what do they believe?"

My Reply:

No, Freeganism is not really a religious cult (in the accepted sense that is), the Freegans are an extremist anti-consumerist and environmentalist group. However, there is one group among them who go under various names such as 'The Jesus People' and they probably do amount to being a sub-Christian cult but apparently they are only a very small group among the Freegans, since the basis of Freeganist belief is somewhat pro-Marxist and these people believe that Christianity has actually helped develop, and contributed to, consumerism; therefore it would probably be incorrect to characterize them all in that way.

'Freegans' are actually an extremist left-wing environmentalist cultic faction. They are an anti-consumerist group in which people employ alternative living strategies based on "limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources." Freegans certainly embrace community, generosity, social concern and cooperation, and they believe in sharing, in opposition to a society based on what they see as materialism, moral apathy, competition, hatred and rejection of the poor, conformity, and greed.

An important part of their lifestyle involves salvaging discarded, unspoiled food from supermarket bins or dumpsters that have passed their sell-by date, but which is still edible and nutritious. They salvage the food not because they are poor or homeless (although sometimes they are), but as a political statement. It is well-known that the large food supermarkets dump many tons of perfectly edible food every day and these people live off this, partly as an anti-consumerist statement, but also because many of them refuse to take normal jobs which might contribute to a consumerist society, therefore they have little or no money to spend on food. They see their 'jobs' as simply being to rear and to protect their families and quite a large portion of them live in vans or caravans.

The word "freegan" itself seems to be a combination of "free" and "vegan" (but not all 'vegans' are freegans - 'Vegans' are extremist vegetarians). The movement seems to have started in the mid/late 1990s, out of various Marxist-influenced antiglobalization and environmentalist movements.

'The Jesus People' group (among and within the Freegans but probably not truly representative of them), turn 'Jesus' into a sort of extreme environmentalist figure who taught anti-consumerism in the first century AD.

I hope these comments provide some help.

Robin A. Brace, February, 2008.