Why Don’t Vegans Eat Honey? — A Case For Plant Based
Honey seems perfectly innocent, right? Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case. Vegans don’t consume honey or use any products with honey in them or made with them. Most people eating a plant based diet do not consume honey either. However, I know some who do if the honey is responsibly sourced.
You’ll have to use the information provided in this post and make your own determination. For me personally, I do not consume or use any products that contain honey.
That being said, a dear friend of mine recently started raising a colony of his own bees. The bees are not manipulated or interfered with in any way and are essentially left to their own devices. Recently, he gifted us an “exclusive” first taste of the honey produced by his bees. I did not have any reservations about trying this as I know the source of that honey, and I trust his process completely. It ended up being the best, most pure honey I have ever tasted.
How beehives function
Honey bees live in highly structured hives. Each hive contains one queen, a few hundred drones (or male bees), and the worker bees (all female). (None of us are surprised, are we ladies?! 💁♀️) Bee hives in the wild can contain up to 20,000 bees. Managed bee colonies can contain up to 80,000 bees.
The sole purpose of drone bees is to mate with the queen. The queen’s sole purpose is to produce eggs. The queen lives 2–5 years, and drones live only about 8 weeks.
Any and all tasks required around the hive are performed by the worker bees. This includes feeding the queen, drones, and eggs, collecting pollen and nectar, and making wax. Most worker bees live about 6 weeks.
During the foraging season, an average colony of bees will produce 25 pounds of honey-about two to three times more than they typically need to get through the winter. In winter months, due to the lack of flowers to forage from, bees live off of the honey they have made and stored.
Industrial bee farming
Similar to other factory-farmed animals, honeybees can experience unnatural living conditions, genetic manipulation, and stressful transportation (see below). Queen bees may be artificially inseminated, have their wings clipped, and intentionally killed and replaced with a new, younger queen. After harvesting the honey, some bee farmers will supplement the bees with sugar water as a replacement. Feeding bees sugar water is the equivalent of feeding them junk food; it weakens the bees immune system and leaves them vulnerable to infections.
Colony Collapse Disorder
Bees are dying in record numbers. The cause of colony collapse disorder is not known for certain, but scientists do have theories. It may be due to varroa mites (a parasite attacking honey bees) or other pests, diseases, suppressed immune systems, pesticide exposure, stress, changes in habitat, poor nutrition, or a combination of factors.
Bees’ role in agriculture
Bees also provide “ pollination services.” Farmers rent beehives in order to pollinate their crops (thus the transportation of bees to different locations). They are used to pollinate a wide variety of crops such as apples, avocados, cashews, coffee, limes, cotton, flax, and cocoa.
Studies have shown that bees are being negatively affected by the frequent transportation and moving to different locations.
The great almond debate
Vegans love their almonds and almond milk. But it turns out, almonds may have more of a negative impact than we realize.
Most commercial beekeepers supplement their income by renting out their honey bees to almond farmers. Almond trees cannot make enough almonds unless the blossoms are pollinated by honeybees. This is leading to a large decline in the bee population, mainly due to the massive amounts of pesticides used on almonds. Many of the bees that do survive are becoming less healthy as a result.
Where does our honey come from?
The U.S. imports two times as much honey as it produces. Much of the imported honey contains cheap additives and fillers (including high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners) in order to increase volume for less money. The FDA has issued guidelines and recommendations for how honey should be labeled, but compliance is not required.
If you want to consume honey, I suggest you buy from a small, local farmer who is practicing ethical honey production: where the bees live in a free-roaming environment, eat a diet that they would normally eat in nature, and are not supplemented with unnatural products. If this is not available to you, try looking online for raw, unfiltered, organic honey. (As stated previously, this is no guarantee that it comes from ethical farming, but they likely practice more sustainable beekeeping practices.)
The practice of balanced beekeeping only takes honey and other bee products when it is in abundance and appropriate. Beekeepers may use mite treatments or medications, but if they do, they use non-toxic, natural substances.
Natural beekeeping involves little to no interference with the hive. Hives are rarely opened and honey is rarely taken.
The focus on conservation beekeeping is preserving bees. No honey is taken and no interventions are performed. Bees are left to their own devices.
So what the buzz?
See what I did there? 😉
Now that you’ve read this, what do you think? Has your viewpoint on the honey industry changed? Were you surprised honey bees can come from factory farms also?
Are there responsibly sourced ethical beekeepers in your area? I’d love to hear about them!
Originally published at https://acaseforplantbased.com on March 4, 2020.