Is Honey Vegan?

I still don't know the answer to this question. According to the definition of veganism, honey is not vegan because bees make honey for themselves and we are essentially stealing their nutrition when we take honey from a hive. Eating honey is exploiting bees and interfering with their habitat. There are articles that say bees are killed during the honey gathering process and bees are stunned during the smoking process. Bees, however, are dying quickly because of pesticide use and other factors so are beekeepers saving the bees? Since becoming vegan in 2011, I went back to eating honey twice. Other than that, I replaced honey with maple syrup or agave nectar. Do I crave honey in particular? No but I went back to eating it last summer when a local beekeeper was selling honey at the Union Square Farmers Market. There are so many views on honey; most vegan websites say honey is absolutely NOT vegan. But are they basing their decision on the definition of veganism or have they read research stating that honey consumption is killing the bees? And when is it time for us to look beyond a definition and truly analyze the situation? Is there such a thing as ethical beekeeping? If you buy local honey from a trusted beekeeper who takes care of their bees, why is eating honey so bad?

Here is an link to an article about a vegan beekeeper.

Here is an article on how to help save the bees.

If I thought eating local honey would help save some of the bee population, I would go back to eating it. I just want to see more writing about ethical beekeeping; I also need to understand fully how beekeeping works.

What do you think? Is honey vegan? Should vegans weigh the pros and cons for consuming honey or should they completely avoid it because of the definition of veganism which states that vegans avoid consuming animal products and by-products (honey). And can you call yourself vegan if you do consume honey?

I will end with a post from my friend Helena, who is a new vegan. She, like me, is questioning why honey is not considered vegan. Feel free to post your comments!

This post is about honey and it is also about drawing battle lines.  I understand that creating a word and a movement around abolishing factory farming—something like vegan—can be a powerful tool.  At the same time, however, I wonder how far can one take this word (or any ideology) before it does more damage than good?  For me when I start to think about honey being non-vegan my mind spirals into thoughts on all the evils in the world and I descend into a state of total incapacitation.

In Becoming Vegan, the issue of honey is described as follows,

“ To the average person, avoiding honey seems extreme, perhaps even a little crazy.  After all, we are talking about insects here, and plenty are harmed in daily life, even in harvesting plants.” p.5

I hardly find this argument relevant.  Vegans happily let bees pollinate their vegetables, so what is so different about honey?  Might it be that labeling honey ‘non-vegan’ is diluting the cause?  To illustrate the muddying of waters, I would like to propose a question:

If bees are my equals, then why can I not trade with them?

In Human social groups, amongst friends, and in communities, it is a treasured feeling to sense both that one has something to offer, and that one has something to gain.  When this relationship breaks down, hierarchies tend to form and people can be left feeling isolated, alone, or worse, somehow inferior and distinct. 

In the future, when there are no more factory farms, what will a vegan society look like?  Will all products and services of non-Human animals be obsolete? Won’t this mean that non-Human animals will have a different status?  How can you have equal status with beings that cannot provide you with anything of value?  How will we then define the use of Animals?

The case of bees is an issue where an Animal is used for two products. One that is tangible: honey.  And one that is intangible: pollination.  (I say that the bee is used for pollination because it is now common practice that bees are transported around the country for the purpose of pollination).  Are grains and vegetables grown on fields pollinated by such trucked bees not vegan? Why is honey any less vegan than such veggies? If you Google ‘bee pollination truck’ you will get images eerily reminiscent of the evils of factory farming.

I do not intend to argue that eating honey is a net positive, only to say that at this point I think that one should drop the label ‘non-vegan’ if for no other reason than to preserve the integrity of the movement.  From the forceful use of bees for pollination, it is not a long step to wonder about the wildlife destroyed to bring me a banana.  Honey, bananas, they are both in the same boat, or so it seems to me.  Human rights, women’s rights, malnutrition of children, child prostitution, deforestation, pesticides leaching into water supply—it seems the world certainly has issues so why draw a line at honey?  In every breath I have a chance to heal the world, in every breath I also am part of some destruction of the world.  Why should anyone exclude me from a movement as positive as veganism simply because I eat honey?


Head to my facebook page for a blended coffee drink recipe.  Happy Friday and have a fabulous Easter and Passover weekend!