This article provides an answer to the question: “is honey vegan?”. It also talks about the downsides of modern beekeeping, vegan substitutes to honey, and what you can do to support wild bees!
Is Honey Vegan?
Since the 20th century bees are more and more turned into factory-farmed animals. Overall, their treatment can’t be considered vegan and honey is usually not consumed by ethically motivated vegans.
Most vegans do not want to eat products for which animals are killed or exploited, so honey can’t be considered vegan.
Like other industries, the honey industry is profit-driven and the bees’ welfare is only secondary. Especially in the last few centuries, the industrial exploitation of bees in many cases became worse, which often resulted in a sharp decline of bees’ overall health.
Bees need their own honey and don’t just produce it for us humans!
However, many people who follow a plant-based diet but don’t see themselves as ethically motivated vegans consume honey.
What is Honey?
Honey is a nutrious sweet, thick, and golden liquid produced by bees. Bees produce it by extracting nectar from flowers.
Bees save their honey inside a beehive for times of scarcity. On average, a hive will produce around 65 pounds of honey per year.
Reasons Why Honey Is Not Vegan:
1. Migratory Beekeeping
In the U.S., many farmers can’t rely on local honeybees to pollinate their crops anymore, especially since croplands have become vaster.
Their solution is to rent honeybee hives from beekeepers that travel around the country for about 10 months of the year.
“Travel Itinerary” of a Honeybee:
- almonds in the Central Valley
- apples, plums, and cherries in California
Spring and Summer:
- blueberry fields in Michigan
- cranberry bogs in Wisconsin
- watermelons, cucumbers, and cantaloupes in Texas
The Whole Year:
- bees are needed in Florida almost the whole year due to its climate (e.g. for blueberries and Brazilian pepper trees)
- bees travel up and down the East Coast the whole year
Problems of Migratory Beekeeping
- lack of proper nourishment when traveling in boxes
- healthy bees come in contact with sick bees while traveling and disease spread easily
- over the last 10 years, many American farmers have lost part of their bees to a disease called ‘colony collapse disorder‘
- according to Scientific American, “many American beekeepers have lost between 30 and 60 percent or more of their hives each winter“
Colony Collapse Disorder:
It describes the phenomenon of worker bees disappearing and leaving behind the queen, lots of food, and immature bees. This means they abandon their hives.
- migratory beekeeping and associated stress
- climate change
2. Removal of Honey and Replacement with Sugar Substitute
Many farmers replace the honey they remove from hives with a sugar substitute. They mostly use high fructose corn syrup. However, this replacement doesn’t have the same nutrients, vitamins, and fats as honey.
As a result, the bees’ health worsens over the long run. Bees need their own honey for their health!
3. Wing Clipping
Often beekeepers clip the queen bee’s wings to prevent her from leaving the hive and start a new hive, which would of course result in a decrease of productivity and, thus, profit. This practice is contested by many vegans.
4. Hive Burning
Another practice that vegans often criticize is hive burning. When honey bees are infected with American Foul Brood, a deadly and highly-contagious disease for bees, some beekeepers burn the hives and the bees to control the outbreak.
This method is considered cruel and unnecessary by many vegans as the bees are still inside of the hives when they’re burned.
Vegan Substitutes For Honey
There are many delicious vegan substitutes for honey! Here are some examples:
- maple syrup
- rice syrup
- date sryup
- barley malt
These honey substitutes are perfect for breakfast! If you’re looking for vegan breakfast recipes, check out my vegan breakfast roundup.
What You Can Do to Help Bees:
- choose vegan alternatives to honey
- build a bee house in your back yard and help to find wild bees a place to live
- grow flowers that are good for bees (for example lavender, lilacs, and sunflowers)
- educate yourself (I can recommend the documentary “More Than Honey” and the novel “The History of Bees” by Maja Lunde)
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I hope you liked this guide on vegan honey and the question “is honey vegan?”.
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Sina – xx
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