Many people wonder why Vegans don’t eat honey. After all, having loads of bees about is a good thing and they are making it anyway and they aren’t harmed, right?
Unfortunately that is not the case. These fascinating little beings are exploited on a mass scale for their honey, which is their food source.
According to the Vegan Society, “honey is probably the product most frequently mistaken as Vegan-friendly. There is a common misconception that honey bees make their honey especially for us, but this couldn’t be much farther from the truth. Honey is made by bees for bees, and their health can be sacrificed when it is harvested by humans. Importantly, harvesting honey does not correlate with the Vegan Society’s definition of veganism, which seeks to exclude not just cruelty, but exploitation”.
Below are 5 reasons why Vegans don’t eat honey.
1. Bees are harmed to make honey for humans
One of the reasons Vegans don’t eat honey is that bees are harmed to make honey for us to eat. The industrial bee farming industry has been known to cull entire hives after harvesting the honey as it is cheaper than having to feed them throughout the winter.
Many bees are harmed and killed during the extraction of the honey from the hive. This process is also extremely distressing for the bees who have worked so hard to produce honey so they can survive the winter months.
While I am sure there are people out there who are not cruel, and keep bees, the majority of honey is produced in a way that harms bees. The main reason why Vegans don’t eat honey is that it is not ours to take, we wouldn’t take another humans property just because we want it, Vegans extend that courtesy to all animals.
2. Bees are given a poor substitute to eat
Bees, “lucky” enough not to be culled at the end of the summer, are given a poor substitute to eat by the industrial farmers. Because they have taken all their winter food storage, they feed the bees a sugar water solution. This is a common and well-known practice of bee farmers.
This sugary solution gives the bees energy but is very nutrient deficient and doesn’t have the protective properties of honey. Without these essential micro-nutrients the bees are very susceptible to disease. It’s like us drinking loads of energy drinks, we will keep going but we won’t be healthy and it will ultimately make us sick.
3. It’s difficult to be queen
The queen bee is central to the hive. She is a fascinating animal and the treatment of her is one of the reasons why Vegans don’t eat honey. She lays between one thousand and one thousand five hundred eggs a day and decides where they will all live. Because of this bee farmers often cut off the wings of the queen bee. They do this to ensure she doesn’t fly away to make a new hive in the wild, as all the other bees will follow her.
If they don’t cut off her wings, a very common practice is to kill the queen each year. The reason for this is the worker bees make new queen bees each year by feeding larvae royal jelly instead of honey. However, there can typically only be one queen in a hive. When this happens the old queen leaves the hive taking a large number of the worker bees with her to establish a new hive elsewhere. So bee farmers kill the old queen in the hive so the workers know the queen is dead and they are more likely to accept the new young queen.
4. Bees are extremely hard workers
The expression “busy as a bee” was coined for a very good reason, bees work extremely hard. Their wings stroke 11,400 per minute and these tiny beings fly at 12 miles per hour!
For bees to produce just one pound of honey they must fly fifty five thousand miles and visit two MILLION flowers. That is makes around two small jars of honey.
I am fascinated by bees, they are such diligent workers and work so hard to ensure they survive the colder months. For a small colony of bees to make it through the winter they will need around thirty five pounds of honey to eat. So if it takes a visit to two million flowers to make one pound of honey, it means they have to visit seventy MILLION flowers in the summer months to have enough food in the winter.
They work so hard and so consistently, they definitely deserve to keep their food and this is a big reason why Vegans don’t eat honey.
5. Bees make wax to preserve the honey
Honey needs to be carefully stored to keep it fresh, to do this bees produce beeswax. This is made by the worker bees who secrete it from eight wax-producing mirror glands.
For bees to produce one pound of wax, the bees need to eat eight to ten pounds of honey! And we now know this means they will need to visit twenty million flowers to make enough honey to make one pound of wax. This is on top of all the honey they need to produce for the winter, and these maths are getting beyond my rudimentary skills!
I think it is clear from what we have learned that the honey made by bees is extremely important to them and they work tirelessly to make it. Taking from them what they need to survive when we do not need it is unfair. Bees pollinate crops and are one of the essential animals for our survival, lets thank them by leaving them to live their lives freely.
What exactly is honey?
We have covered 5 reasons why Vegans don’t eat honey, but what exactly is honey?
Honey is a syrupy, sweet substance produced by bees. They collect nectar from flowers and store it in their “honey stomach”, it then mixes with enzymes produced by the bees which alters it and makes is suitable for long term storage.
The bees then pass the nectar between them, slowly altering the nectar until it has been converted into a sweet, nutritious and watery substance and then store it as honeycomb. It is left until much of the water evaporates and it becomes the sticky consistency we know to be honey.
At this stage the bees seal it in with wax and it will stay fresh indefinitely.
So I suppose the short answer to the question of what exactly is honey… it’s bee vomit 🙂