Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner with a strong background in nutrition.
Why Don't Vegans Eat Honey?
Why do vegans think honey is cruel? Many vegans admit they don’t eat honey.
Veganism means abstaining from eating anything produced by an animal. Honey is included in this list because it's made by our furry little friends, the bees.
But if you aren’t vegan, you might wonder why vegans think honey is cruel and refuse to add it to their diet.
The main reason vegans don't eat meat and dairy is that they believe the way meat and dairy are made is inhumane.
For example, cows are artificially impregnated so that they can produce milk for human consumption. This involves restraining them and injecting semen into their uterus using a syringe and a speculum.
The same goes for chickens—they are often put under stress and restrained so that humans can have access to their eggs. Animals are often cruelly slaughtered for their meat, too. Plus, their living conditions on factory farms are often considered to be inhumane.
Beekeeping Stresses Bee Colonies
But bees aren’t animals and bees aren’t slaughtered to obtain their honey. So why do vegans think honey is cruel?
The problem is that the collection of honey can negatively affect honeybee colonies.
Vegans point out that beekeeping leads to the destruction of bee colonies and those bees are forced to produce more honey than they need, leading to their deaths. Honeybees are not native to all countries and some studies show that they are under threat.
How Bees Make Honey
When bees collect nectar from the flower, they store it in their extra stomachs and carry it back to their hives. The worker bees then pass the nectar to each other, chewing on it as they go. This chewing action causes the release of an enzyme that turns the nectar into honey.
After enough time has passed, the water content of the honey will be low enough for it to be stored in honeycomb cells in the hive. The bees then fan the honeycomb with their wings until all the water has evaporated, leaving behind a thick liquid—honey!
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Bees are very organized workers—they only collect from one type of flower at a time, so every batch of honey they make has the same flavor and color.
For bees to make their honey as sweet as possible, they need to get their nectar from plants that have lots of sugar in them—like clover, dandelions, buckwheat, heather, and lavender.
Bees produce honey for their own consumption, just as cows produce milk exclusively for their calves. Bees need honey to sustain themselves through colder months when flowers aren't blooming and therefore providing pollen.
This means that taking away their stores of food (in other words, their honey) will starve them or cause them to die faster than usual during wintertime.
Some Vegans Do Eat Honey
Some vegans avoid consuming honey for ethical reasons, as its production can cause harm to bees. Despite this, some vegan products use honey as a sweetener.
There are also vegans who choose to eat honey because they believe that its production doesn’t cause great harm to bees because they see it as a more ethical alternative to refined sugar or artificial sweeteners.
The bottom line? While there's no black and white answer to whether eating honey is vegan, there's a lot of grays in the mix.
Some vegans don't consider honey consumption a vegan practice, while others do. Others still fall somewhere on the spectrum between the two. But it's important to remember that veganism is about what you consume, and why you're consuming it.
So regardless of where you stand on the honey debate, it's more important that you understand what it is that you're eating and why you're eating it than simply following a rule without thought.
There is some debate among vegans as to whether it’s ethical to eat honey. There may not be a right or wrong answer. It depends on how much you believe eating honey impacts the life and the future of bees.
Some vegans argue that bees produce excess amounts of honey that humans can take without harming them or disrupting their natural behavior.
However, many commercial honey producers use less than humane ways of harvesting honey, so there are several issues to consider. The issue is an important one in the vegan community, but there are arguments for both sides.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.