To Be Vegan or Beegan, That is The Question!
When it comes to the subject of veganism, honey is and will probably always remain, a controversial topic. It’s also a universally misunderstood topic. To most people, especially someone who is new to veganism, honey isn’t something that is a very obvious animal product, and it’s partly because bees aren’t seen as animals. In order for someone to make an informed decision on whether or not they’re going to be a vegan or they’re going to opt to be a ‘beegan’, meaning that they will avoid animal products in their diet, except for honey, then it’s necessary to understand what the word vegan really means and in turn, know why a true vegan doesn’t eat honey.
First off, the word veganism was defined in 1944 as: ‘a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals.’ As for the word ‘animal’, it’s defined as: a living organism that feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized sense organs and nervous system and able to respond rapidly to stimuli. This most definitely settles any question that bees are animals.
Because veganism is based on the exclusion of all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals, and because bees are indeed animals, we need to look at what is it about the honey industry that is seen by vegans as abusive (cruel) to bees, and therefore the whole subject will make more sense.
1. Bees are kept in hives and made to produce honey for the benefit of humans. Yes, they live in hives and produce honey naturally, but it’s for their own benefit, not to be mass produced. Just like cows are made to live in tight quarters and produce milk, bees are made to live in man made hives for the benefit of humans, not for their individual benefit.
4. The queen’s wings are clipped in order to prevent her from flying away, followed by the hive, and forming a new colony in a different location. This is known as swarming. Sometimes the queen can fall from the hive and not be able to fly back up to it.
There are other arguments against eating honey and other bee products like bee pollen, that have been made. Some, in my opinion, take it to the extremes and are somewhat moot. If you find that these reasons are not enough to make a decision, in the meantime, maybe you will want to be more choosy in the vendor that you buy your honey from. Here are some ideas to look for, in a beekeeper:
Many beekeepers replace their queens every August, because young queens lay more eggs than older ones. If they simply let nature take its course, the workers will raise a new queen when the old one begins to fail, by feeding a special food — royal jelly — to selected larvae.
Does the beekeeper leave a good amount of honey in the hive, for the bees to eat, or do they take it all and feed the bees sugar water? In my opinion, it’s unnecessary to steal all of the bee’s honey. It’s more respectful to leave them an adequate amount, and the only reason to do that would simply be a matter of greed, on the beekeeper’s part.
Whatever you decide, to eat a truly vegan diet or to eat a plant based, ‘beegan’ diet, I hope this article helped you to be more clear on the reasons why this subject is in a somewhat gray area, amongst those who are against animal cruelty or are learning about veganism, and has helped you make a more informed, intuitive decision.