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Should vegans be eating honey?

Should vegans be eating honey?

Should vegans be eating honey?

Honey is a contentious subject among the vegan community. While some vegans will happily use the sweet spread on their toast and in their tea, others abstain for ethical and/or environmental reasons.

We break down the debate and explore both sides, so you can decide which you fall on:

Reasons vegans should not eat honey:

  • Some beekeepers are known to clip the queen bee’s wings to prevent her from swarming, or leaving the current hive to start a new one. Intended as a way to control bee populations, many vegans view this practice as inhumane.
  • Bees make honey for themselves, and it becomes vital for their nourishment during the winter months. Taking their primary source of energy can leave them struggling to survive. Some beekeepers replace the honey they remove with substitutes such as sugar water, however, this does not contain the same nutrients. Without a honey-rich diet, bees are susceptible to disease outbreaks that can wipe out entire colonies.
  • Most significantly, by definition, vegans do not eat animals or use any animal products. As arthropods, bees are animals. Therefore, honey is an animal product – and so by the most basic definition of veganism, vegans should not eat honey.

Reasons vegans should eat honey:

  • While it is true that honey is an animal product, making honey is part of the bees’ natural way of life – they would continue to do so even without human intervention. In fact, they often make too much, and when left alone this honey can start to ferment. Fermented honey can be very detrimental to bees – so beekeepers can actually be helping the bees’ health by taking a reasonable amount of honey from the hive.
  • When done by responsible beekeepers (taking only the excess from an abundance in the hive), harvesting honey doesn’t hurt the bees at all. For this reason, some vegans choose to consume honey if they know it’s from a humane and sustainable source such as a small-scale, local farm.
  • Many vegans opt for agave syrup instead of honey, however this product is creating its own issues for the animal kingdom. The overharvesting of agave nectar is threatening other endangered species, including Mexican long-nosed bats who live primarily on agave nectar. It is therefore important for vegans abstaining from honey to consider the effects their substitutes are having on the environment.
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