If you’re vegan, you avoid animal products, such as milk, eggs, meat and any products made from animals. Some vegans differentiate animal and insect products, allowing the second group, which includes honey. Others consume honey in their diet. So, what are the reasons for avoiding this sweet treat? Honey is viewed as non-vegan by some because it’s from a farming source. Just like other types of farming, it’s exploiting living entities, which are bees in this case.
How are bees exploited?
Farming is a commercial enterprise, which means the goal is to make a profit. Vegans often view the farmers as exploiting the work of the bees and use practices that aren’t considered ethical. For instance, bee farmers often replace the queen. While the queen does this naturally, usually in the spring, farmers do it before this occurs to keep up production. It takes time for the new queen to emerge and in the meantime, worker bees age and die and new ones aren’t created. By taking control of the process, farmers ensure a steady flow of honey.
Some vegans feel bee farming harms the health of the bees.
When bee farmers take the honey, they’re taking the bee’s food. Honey has all the essential nutrients and calories that bees need to survive. It’s filled with amino acids, natural antibiotics, carbs and antibiotics. Bees have to eat, so farmers replace that honey with high fructose corn syrup and/or sucrose. That can provide calories, but not all the benefits of honey. In fact, there’s scientific evidence that it may negatively affect the immune system and even cause change at the genetic level that diminishes their protection against pesticides.
If vegans don’t eat honey, what do they use as sweetener?
There are several plant based options, but none of them include the white granules often found in the cupboards of homes across America. Why? Sugar is from plants and fine to consume, up to the point of refinement, where the sugar is pushed through a massive filter that’s created from bone char—the burnt bones of animals. It removes not only the color, but also the nutrients in sugar. Instead of table sugar, vegans often use maple syrup, molasses, barley malt syrup, brown rice sugar or date syrup
- Some vegans feel the hard work of bees is stolen by the farmers. Both of these things are believed as unethical by vegans. In order to take a stand, they avoid the consumption of honey.
- Honey has many health benefits, which vary based on the diet of the bees. Wildflower honey, for instance, is often used to suppress coughs and help with seasonal allergies.
- If you grow sage and have bees, their honey will most likely be good for digestion, if the bees harvest its nectar. The type of nectar bees collect also affects the taste, color and texture. Tupelo honey is extremely sweet and almost buttery in texture.
- Whether you’re vegan or not, avoid giving infants 12 months or younger raw honey. Raw honey may have botulism spores or bacteria that won’t affect older children and adults but does affect babies because of their immature immune system.