Is Honey Vegan?
Bees are viewed by both vegans and non-vegans alike around the world, as an important part of our ecosystem that must be protected. But what is the consensus on honey? And is it vegan /plant-based? The vegan society states that honey is not vegan. “honey is made by bees for bees, and their health can be sacrificed when it is harvested by humans.”
But many people believe honey to be a harmless food when obtained from small beekeepers who have a more ‘natural’ approach to beekeeping than most honey factory farms. Some plant-eaters make an exception for honey when it comes to eating plant-based.
But is honey actually cruelty-free and does it harm our environment?
What Is Honey?
Honey is made by honeybees from the pollen collected from flowers. This honey is then stored to be used as food to keep bees alive during the winter months when there are now flowers blooming.
How Is It Farmed?
In order to obtain honey for sale, the honey (bee’s food source) must be taken from the hive and replaced with a substitute (most often sugar syrup). Honey contains unique enzymes and nutrients that honey bees need, it also contains simple sugars that give them energy quickly. Sugar syrup is significantly worse for bee health and is not a sufficient substitute to keep bees healthy.
“In conventional beekeeping, honey bees are specifically bred to increase productivity. This selective breeding narrows the population gene pool and increases susceptibility to disease and large-scale die-offs.”
These diseases are then spread to the thousands of other pollinators we and other animals rely on, disputing the common myth that honey production is good for our environment.”
In order to keep the queen bees in their hives, their wings are often clipped, they are confined or sometimes killed.
Is It Sustainable?
Mass breeding of honeybees affects the populations of other competing nectar-foraging insects, including wild bees that are essential to our ecosystem. Overwhelmed by the ever-inflating quantities of farmed bees, the numbers of native bumblebees have declined.
Honey does have a low water footprint, honey is rarely local, and most often an imported product. This means that it usually comes with a big serving of air miles and carbon emissions.
Although some smaller, natural beekeepers do sell their honey locally and claim to avoid cruel practices, the reality is that any honey that is consumed on a mass scale can never be sourced solely from small beekeepers, since they would not be able to keep up with the demand and continue with their natural practices.
If your lifestyle goal is to avoid the cruelty and exploitation of all animals as much as possible or to protect our environment as best you can, then avoid honey altogether and try some honey-free alternatives.