What is Honey, and Can Vegans Eat it?
If you are transitioning to a vegan lifestyle or toying with the idea, you might be intrigued to know what honey is and can vegans eat it.
But, before we dive into why vegans don’t eat it, let’s look at what honey is and why it’s important to the bees way more than it is to us.
- It is the energy source of all bees, and without it, they would starve.
- A natural product made from the nectar collected by bees from the flowering plants all around us. Nectar, according to Live Science, is the sugary liquid that is extracted from flowers using the bee’s long and tube-shaped ‘tongue.’
- Stored in the bee’s extra stomach, also called a crop. In the crop, the nectar gets sloshed around, and it is mixed with enzymes, and it is converted to a chemical whose pH and composition make it the honey that is suitable for long-term storage.
- When the honeybee returns to the beehive with nectar in the crop, it passes the nectar to another bee through regurgitation. This process is repeated, and the nectar gets deposited in the honeycomb – but it isn’t honey yet.
- To create it, the bees have to fan the liquid to ensure that all the water from the nectar is evaporated. After most of the water is evaporated, bees seal the honey in a honeycomb – using the secretion of a liquid from the bee’s abdomen – it then hardens to beeswax.
Taking into consideration what the commercialization of honey farming is about, it makes sense why vegans choose not to use honey. Clearly, it is exploitation and The Vegan Society believes that honey isn’t vegan. They note that honey is produced by bees for bees, and by harvesting the honey the health of the bees is sacrificed.
Reasons Why Most Vegans Avoid or Don’t Eat Honey
While some people who call themselves vegans eat honey, many of us who practice real veganism do not eat it at all. So, as a result, this can be regarded as a conflicting issue amongst us vegans.
Honey is the result of the exploitation of bees. So, the vegans who consider it as a non-vegan food see no difference between beekeeping/ farming and all the other forms of animal farming.
It’s also noted that bee farmers optimize their profits by employing practices that are largely unethical, going by the vegan standards.
These practices include the clipping of the wings of the queen bees to prevent the bees from fleeing the hives, killing entire colonies to curb the spread of diseases – instead of treating the bees, and even harvesting honey that has nutritionally inferior sugar syrups.
Because of these, most vegans have taken a stand against these exploitative practices regarding honey and bee products like bee pollen, propolis, and royal jelly, as non-vegan food.
Harmful Effects of Honey Farming on the Health of the Bees
Vegans are also avoiding honey because of the commercial farming of honey, which is harmful to bees.
The main function of honey is the provision of a carbohydrate source to the bees. It’s also the source of antioxidants, amino acids, and natural antibiotics for the bees.
At the same time, the bees will store and consume honey over winter because production will drop in winter. The honey is the bees’ source of energy and sustenance in winter.
By encouraging or buying commercially produced honey, it means that we are taking it away from the bees while replacing their natural source of nutrition with sucrose or even the high-fructose corn syrup, HFCS.
Although the supplemental carbs are intended to give the bees a source of food in winter or in spring to encourage colony growth or stimulate the natural flow of nectar, the HFCS and sucrose fail to provide the bees with the natural and health benefits associated with natural honey.
The artificial sweeteners are said to harm the immune systems of the bees, even causing significant changes in their genetic makeup, hence reducing their natural defenses against diseases and pesticides in flowers.
Ultimately, these effects harm beehives.
But, Can Vegans Eat Honey?
If you want to follow a 100% vegan lifestyle then the answer is No. Veganism to its full extent means no exploitation of any living thing.
There are a few alternative options, so consider the ones here and by doing so saving our precious bees!
Best Vegan Alternatives to Honey
- BeeFree Honey – A branded sweetener made from fresh lemon juice, apples, and sugar. It looks like honey, but it’s vegan.
- Agave Syrup – Extracted from cacti. It’s vegan-friendly, has a low-glycemic load, and it’s the perfect sweetener for hot drinks and an excellent alternative.
- Maple Syrup – Made from the sap of the maple tree. It comes with numerous vitamins and minerals, and it also boasts a maximum of 24 protective antioxidants.
- Barley malt syrup – A sweetener made out of sprouted barley. It is golden in color, with a flavor similar to the flavor of blackstrap molasses.
- Blackstrap Molasses – A thick and dark-brown liquid obtained from the boiling of sugarcane juice thrice. This extract is rich in calcium and iron.
- Brown Rice Syrup – Made through the exposure of brown rice to different enzymes that breakdown the starch in rice, producing a thick, syrupy, dark-colored syrup.
- Yacon Syrup – Extracted from roots similar to sweet potatoes, it’s a natural probiotic, and it’s great for use on pancakes and in porridge.
- Date Syrup – A caramel-colored sweetener made from extracting the liquid that comes from the cooked dates. It’s easy to make – just blend boiled dates with water.