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Is Honey a Proper Food For Vegans?

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  • cohensmilk1
    Is Honey a Proper Food For Vegans? Ten years ago, after having completely abstained from cheese, ice cream and pizza for 24 months, I made the decision, to
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2009
      Is Honey a Proper Food For Vegans?

      Ten years ago, after having completely abstained
      from cheese, ice cream and pizza for 24 months, I
      made the decision, to discontinue eating meat,
      chicken, and fish.

      In my own mind, I became a vegan, although I admit
      to not being a "strict" vegan. I innocently ate
      cookies or bagels and muffins made with eggs, or
      enjoyed a slice of toast in a diner that might have
      been baked with traces of milk powder. I probably also
      ate some products containing milk chocolate, never
      asking the server whether the icing or filling was
      of the dairy variety.

      Today, I carefully read labels. I educate myself
      about product ingredients. I do not eat the muffins
      that I know contain eggs. I do not eat the halvah
      that I know to contain honey.

      Is honey vegan?

      I am often asked this question, and respond
      by first stating that I do not eat honey.
      I then offer a brief explanation about how bees
      are abused during the collection of their honey.
      Finally, I offer an alternative. I have found that
      maple syryp is a great substitute. I use maple
      syrup in my tea with lemon.

      Many years ago, I heard an author and activist
      lecture about the vegetarian diet. Her name is
      Joanne Stepaniak. Joanne is the author of
      The Uncheese Cookbook, Raising Vegan Children,
      The Vegan Sourcebook, and many other wonderful
      texts. Recently, I came upon her response to that
      same question about honey. I have yet to read or
      hear a better elucidation of this topic.
      In Joanne's words:

      "Regardless of how careful we are, it is
      impossible to live a totally harm-free life.
      All animate sentient beings inflict some form
      of injury or death to others simply by their
      existence. Humans displace or destroy large and
      small life forms whenever we erect buildings,
      plant seeds, dig crops, burn wood, fly airplanes,
      drive cars, operate factories, walk on grass, or
      bat our eyes. This is simply an aspect of being

      The difference between vegans and nonvegans,
      however, is the element of intent. Vegans
      consciously strive to do no harm to any sentient
      life, including insects. This does not mean that
      vegans do not hurt others inadvertently, but that
      it is never their aim to do so.

      Honey is made from sucrose-rich flower nectar
      that is collected by honeybees and then regurgitated
      back and forth among them until it is partially
      digested. After the final regurgitation, the bees
      fan the substance with their wings until it is cool
      and thick. This mixture, which we call honey (which
      is essentially bee vomit), is then stored in the
      cells of the bees' hive and used as their sole
      source of nutrition in cold weather and other times
      when alternative food sources are not available.

      During the collection of flower nectar, the bees
      also pollinate plants. This is part of the natural
      process of life and is necessary and unavoidable.
      Even though humans inadvertently benefit, the bees
      do not pollinate plants in order to serve human
      needs; it is simply a secondary aspect of their
      nectar collecting. The honey that bees produce is
      stored in their hives for their own purposes.
      When humans remove honey from the hive, they take
      something that is not rightfully theirs.

      To collect honey, beekeepers must temporarily
      remove a number of the bees from their home. During
      the course of bee management and honey collection,
      even the most careful beekeeper cannot avoid
      inadvertently injuring, squashing, or otherwise
      killing some of the bees. Other commodities may
      be taken from the hive as well, including beeswax,
      honeycomb, pollen, propolis, and royal jelly.

      Bees are not harmed by the process of pollination --
      it is something they would do whether or not humans
      were involved or reaped any profit. If one were to
      stretch the point, using honey could, in a broad
      sense, be considered analogous to dairying.
      Furthermore, there is no reason to take honey
      from bees other than to sell it. Utilizing bees
      to pollinate crops in no way necessitates ravaging
      their hive.

      Although the issue of honey is not deemed the
      most pressing concern of many vegans, honey is
      nevertheless considered an animal product. Because
      there are numerous alternatives to honey, from a vegan
      perspective there is no justifiable rationale for
      using it. Furthermore, the vegan position on honey
      is definitive. Honey was prohibited for use by vegans
      according to the 1944 manifesto of the British Vegan
      Society (veganism's founding organization), a
      position consistent with the requirement for full
      (vegan) membership in the American Vegan Society
      since its inception in 1960.

      Sweeteners are not necessary for human health.
      There are virtually no essential nutrients (in fact,
      there are hardly any nutrients at all) in sweeteners,
      so our use of them is purely for personal pleasure.
      Although the labor force is typically exploited on
      sugar plantations, even humans with minimal choices
      have far more options than the honeybees.

      Humans can live quite well without sugar or honey.
      As a rule, extensive use of sweeteners is found only
      in affluent societies. If vegans want to indulge in
      sweets, there are many substitutes available: organic,
      unbleached cane sugar (somewhat kinder to the
      environment, but not necessarily better for the
      workers); beet sugar; maple sugar; maple syrup;
      concentrated fruit syrups; rice syrup; barley malt;
      and sorghum syrup, among others. We do not need to
      choose between exploiting humans or bees in order
      to satisfy our sweet tooth. Concerned vegans can
      avoid harming either by eliminating sweets from
      their diet or by choosing compassionate alternatives."

      Robert Cohen
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