Why Isn’t Honey Vegan? The Savoury Truth

The question ‘Why isn’t honey vegan?’ is one of the more confusing, long standing questions surrounding veganism.

To many people it isn’t clear why it would be a problem to eat honey when the bee isn’t killed in the process of making the honey.

Why isn't honey vegan? A bee flying toward a sunflower

Do All Vegans Avoid Honey?

Honey is one of the more ‘argued’ about topics. (Along with the question of whether a vegan would eat a free range egg from happy hens.)

The concept of being vegan is to try not to support any industry which commercialises animals for a product.

So, strictly speaking anybody who identifies as being vegan, won’t eat honey.

But becoming vegan is a journey, and we don’t change from being omnivores to vegans overnight.

Given how many products are involved in the whole ‘changeover’, it’s quite a learning curve just to try to identify, let alone get-rid-of, all the non-vegan things from your life.

Understandably then, honey may not be the most obvious thing to a newer vegan and they may well still be eating it without even realising that it isn’t actually bee-friendly.

Common FAQ About Why Honey isn’t Vegan, Debunked

  • What’s wrong with us sharing the bees’ honey with them? – We don’t share it with them. Often, the bees are fed on sugar water and the honey removed.
  • Why isn’t honey vegan if bees are unintelligent insects with no feelings? Bees are intelligent insects with their own social structure and community.
Honey bee on a yellow flower
Honey bee collecting nectar
  • Aren’t vegans exaggerating, pretending that bees are mistreated? Bees make honey and we share some of it, no? Bees are often mistreated in honey-farming and the honey is taken from them when it was made for feeding their bee family.
  • Doesn’t the demand for honey protect the bee species? And don’t we need to populate the world with more bees? The honey bee is just one species of 20,000 bee species and it’s not one of the endangered species.
  • Doesn’t buying honey support the bee population by giving them places to live? The honey bee is actually removing some of the diversity of the natural bee population.
  • Rolling eyes up in head – they’re only bees for goodness sake! Bees are essential to the survival of the ecosystem.

What I’ve Learned by Asking: Why Isn’t Honey Vegan?

  • I actually believed, like many people, that maybe the smaller bee keeper farms were actually supporting the bee population.
  • I also believed, until I looked into it deeper, that the bees still got to eat their own honey too, as well as the humans.
  • I misguidedly thought that only the big bee farms would harm their bees and that smaller bee keepers would protect them.
  • I had no idea that the honey bee is only one of 20,000 species of bees or that the honey bee could threaten some of the wild bee population.
Bee collecting nectar

Video by Earthling Ed on Why Honey isn’t Vegan

Ed Winters’ nick-name is Earthling Ed, and he’s an inspiration to the world of vegan, educating people on the ins and outs of veganism and why the future is vegan.

The best way to understand the reason why honey isn’t vegan is to watch this video by Ed Winters.

It shows very clearly some of the unethical concerns about humans eating honey.

Why Vegans Don’t Eat Honey video by Ed Winters

Summary of: Why Isn’t Honey Vegan?

  • You may think the bee is a dumb insect but it isn’t: bees are actually intelligent.
  • Bees have a brain and a nervous system and they’ve been shown to have emotions too.
  • In bee farming, the bees aren’t left to breed naturally, instead about 12-14 drones are squeezed to get their semen, killing the drones in the process. The semen is then injected into the queen bee.
  • In the winter the hive is (often) killed off in horrible ways (gassing, over heating, burning to death. . . ) because it costs more to feed them through the winter than it does to kill them and re-stock.
  • Some bee keepers just kill a percentage of the hive or the queen.
  • The queen bee often has her wings clipped.
  • Honey is produced by bees eating nectar, then regurgitating it many times. It takes a whole lifetime of 12 worker bees to make one teaspoon of honey for you to eat in one second.
  • Bees can be bought and sold and sent through the post. Not only queen bees, whole colonies can be sent in the mail in a box.
  • The commercial and selective breeding of honey bees helps to spread diseases and parasites which can pass to wild bumble bee populations when they visit the same flower.
  • Bee populations are in decline but the honey bee isn’t. The honey bee population has risen, which can actually pressurise the wild bee population. Honey bees in large numbers will push out the wild bees, reducing the bio diversity among bees.

So, Would I Eat Honey? My Opinion on Honey

I don’t eat honey.

But I never have eaten honey (I mean, I’ve tried it and I’ve eaten honey & mustard salad dressing in the past, but I’ve never bought honey or regularly eaten it).

Basically I don’t like honey.

Because of this, when I first became vegan, I didn’t have to ask myself the question, ‘Is honey vegan?’ because I didn’t eat it anyway.

But the question was still there in the back of my mind and sometimes people would ask me my opinion. Do you eat honey? they would ask.

And so I thought I better find out more about what my opinion really is about to eat honey or to not eat honey.

And now that I know some of the facts, it’s a no-question for me.

I wouldn’t eat honey knowing that the bee is just another commodity in the big machine which has been built by human beings to get all other creatures working for us as a cost to their wellbeing.

If you know somebody who keeps bees in a friendly way, then please let me know, because I’d be very interested to hear their take on it.

What about you, do you eat honey?

What to Use Instead of Honey in a Vegan Kitchen

The most favourite sweetener to replace honey in a vegan kitchen is maple syrup which you can easily source and use as a substitute.

We also have, here in Spain miel de caña (cane sugar honey) which can be used in some recipes in place of honey.

There are other sweeteners available, but maple syrup is the most honey-like option.

Why Be Such an Extreme Vegan and Not Eat Honey?

Becoming vegan & living from a whole foods plant based diet can be one of the happiest, healthiest things you can do for yourself.

Especially a wfpb diet has been shown to help reverse diabetes, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, support heart health and reverse heart disease.

The list of health benefits is much more than that and so many people have been cured from chronic disease just by adopting a (real food) vegan wfpb way of life.

But being vegan brings so much more than that.

As you start out on your journey, you may think you’re beginning a new diet for the animals wellbeing, for your health or vegan for the environment, but as you start your journey, strange things occur.

  • You become more at peace.
  • You become a happier person.
  • You become more fulfilled.

Becoming vegan is a journey which I hope as many people as possible will be able to experience in their lifetime, because it has so much power to uplift your life.

I really do believe that by becoming vegan you’re aligning with your inner child and that will bring you inner peace and happiness.

But there are also other compelling reasons to be vegan.

When you’re vegan everything about eating as a vegan wfpb becomes easier. What looked difficult from the outside, looks easy and fun once you’re doing it.

If it’s not easy yet, here are 10 tips for the vegan kitchen that will make your life easier and also some simple vegan lifestyle hacks for transitioninng to a vegan lifestyle.

Finally, if you’re still considering going vegan, here’s a simple guide to starting an awesome vegan lifestyle and the most common vegan FAQ.

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