by Rachel Myers
Why Honey is NOT Vegan:
The ethics regarding honey and bees is often misunderstood, and I have wondered why consuming honey is considered unethical. I definitely think that there are worse things to be consuming other than honey, but it is often overlooked as an issue in the vegan community, and people often question why consuming and producing honey for commercial reasons is unethical. Honey is the single source of food for bees, and bees are one of the most important creatures that exist, because of the pollination and the amount of contributing to ecosystems they do.
The Controversy over Honey Production:
Honey bees are specifically bred in order to be most productive which decreases the gene pool. This leads to lower diversity of bees, which means that diseases are spread more easily to other bees, which could affect other species that are important. Since there is an increase production of honey, the numbers of bumblebees and various species of birds has declined as well, because there is mass breeding of bees which effects the populations of other nectar foraging insects and other bee species. When farmers remove the honey from the hives, they replace it with a sugar substitute that is significantly worse for the bees’ health overall, since it lacks vitamins and fats that the bees need in order to be the most productive. Bees need honey in order to survive, but humans do not. Honey is what keeps the bees thriving and able to keep pollinating plants.
The Importance of Bees is Often Overlooked:
Bees are very important, and when they are overharvested for their honey, many of them die, and bee populations suffer from disease and lack of gene diversity. Bees are responsible in helping us produce a majority of our crops, “$19 billion worth of agricultural crops in the U.S. alone in 2010 [was helped produced by bees]; that’s estimated to be one-third of everything we eat” (onegreenplanet.org). That is a lot more food than most people realize, which is why the roles of bees in our ecosystems are often overlooked.
My Thoughts about Honey:
Honey is a sweetener that is definitely not needed in the daily diet. Avoiding honey is pretty easy, and there are other alternatives that can be used instead, like fake honey that is produced from apples, or maple syrup. Honey that is bought locally would be a better option than commercially produced honey, because of ethical reasons of beekeeping. Bees that are kept on a local level are not worked as much for profit, and the honey can be produced more ethically. If honey is something that is needed in a person’s diet, it would be the worst because there are definitely worse things and practices that are happening day to day, like the dairy industry. The beekeeping industry is not cruel in my eyes, but it is just an unnecessary practice, when bees should be pollinating and producing honey on their own terms.
A counter argument that is often brought up is that honey is an environmentally friendly sweetener compared to a lot of others. Some sugars are very demanding on the environment but many of them do not include any animals needed for production. The argument is, just because a sweetener is vegan, does not mean that it is friendly to the environment, because the production of the sugar requires a lot of energy and resources. In a 2012 article by the Guardian, the author claims that the honey industry is not run dependent on fossil fuels, and it is not harming the environment, from what we can see. Beet and corn sweeteners are energy intensive when grown, and it is harsh on the land.
Where does your honey come from? And is it easily substitutable?
*Sources are linked within the article when they are referenced.