Monday, January 23, 2017
Is Honey Vegan?
This question is something that people like to go round and round about. There are plenty of arguments on both sides, but the answer lies in your motives. If you are vegan because you are interested in eating whole, natural, foods, then for you, honey would qualify as vegan particularly if you can find a chemical free beekeeper. If you are vegan because you believe that humans shouldn't make use of any animals at all right down to not wearing wool because the sheep are sheared, then for you, honey would not be considered vegan.
As a backyard beekeeper, who isn't trying to make a living at it, I am able to take what is best for my bees into consideration to a larger extent that someone who is renting them out for pollination or trying to produce the most honey possible. But even those beekeepers are doing their best to protect and help the bees. Beekeeping just isn't something most people get into because there is a ton of money to be made. Beekeepers tend to be people who love bees.
I'm not someone who has a problem with small scale farming for eggs, wool, or honey. It's anything done on a large commercial scale where cruelty enters the picture. This is where knowing your local farmer or beekeeper becomes important.
In the spirit of full disclosure while we haven't eaten beef or pork at our house for years, I still think a rotisserie chicken is the best last minute dinner around. And yes, it's probably just coming from Kroger and I don't know the farmer or the chicken on a first name basis. Changing from an old way of doing things to a new system takes time and effort.
I could see us letting poultry go at some point, but we aren't there yet. We may never be. I don't know. But I do know it's a process wherever you fall on these issues. We don't have to perfect our lives in one day.
If you want to feel better about chicken read Chicken From Farm to Table by the USDA. If you want to feel worse (about pretty much everything related to food, including eating "organic") read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.
Or maybe it's the other way around.
If we look closer at this issue, however, a problem emerges for even the most ardent defender of animal rights where bees are concerned. They continue to eat fruits and vegetables which are in large part pollinated by honeybees that are transported to locations for short periods of time when things are in blossom for pollination. Unless your vegan friend is buying locally grown fruit and vegetables from a farm he actually knows the name of, he's made use of honeybees and the beekeeping industry unbeknownst to him.
We have so tightly wound our agricultural practices (a topic worthy of discussion in a different post) to the honeybee and it would take several decades and much effort to disentangle the two.
Hopefully, this will give you a more informed basis for whether or not you personally feel that you can eat honey as part of your vegan diet.
So what do you think? Are you eating anything and everything you want? Are you eliminating anything for ethical reasons? Is honey vegan or not?