To Be Vegan or Beegan, That is The Question!


Close up view of the working bees on honey cells

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.

2. Queen bees are killed by commercial beekeepers after 2 years, which is about 3 years earlier than their lifespan lasts. They’re replaced by younger queen bees since they lay more eggs.

3. Beekeepers steal all of the hive’s honey in the fall, leaving none for the bees to eat. They feed them sugar water for the winter.

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:

Find out from your local beekeeper (local is best, as it is with produce. see our article here about that) if they’re kind to the bees:

Does the beekeeper let the queen bee live out her life naturally? Or is she killed, in order to be replaced?

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.

 

Renee Rubio
About me

Renee Rubio is passionate about health in all aspects. She's been keenly aware of the fact that it's not just about food and exercise, for most of her life. She wants to help teach others that there are other parts to the whole, of being healthy (and thus, knowing the true nature of happiness!). Growing up the child of an alcoholic, she knew from the beginning that substance abuse is a dead end street. As she grew older and worked through her emotional issues, growing spiritually, and dealing with weight issues (tied into her emotional issues), she finally discovered raw foods and the benefits of that type of eating. Deciding to change her diet to plant based first, in 2009, she transitioned to raw living foods in 2010. At times, she's been 100 percent raw, she's done several fasts, and adopted many of the lifestyle aspects of a raw, vegan foodist, and continues with it. She has never been healthier or happier in her life and has finally found the key to the foods that her body responds best to. She knows that she still has some ways to go, on her journey, and continues onward and upward. Her current focus is on learning more about hormones and parasite cleansing. She lives in Nevada with her soul mate and her Australian Cattle Dog fur baby. She loves being of service. One of her favorite activities is to coach others. She believes she is a natural born supporter and encourager. Among other things, she also loves to laugh, watch movies, and prepare healthy, beautiful and delicious food for her loved ones. Most of all, she loves learning, because learning never ends in this life, and it keeps things interesting :)

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