Is honey vegan? Can you eat honey on a vegan lifestyle?
Being vegan is a way of living and regarded as a way of minimizing animal cruelty and animal exploitation. Vegans avoid all and any animal products.
If you are a honey lover then you’ll appreciate how thick and tasty the golden liquid tastes, and so, we spread it on our toast, add to cereal, or pour on pancakes. Honey is meant to make everything you eat taste better.
But what is the actual truth about honey?
What is Honey?
Honey is the energy source of all bees, and without it they would starve.
Honey is 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.’
It is 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 honey, the bees have to fan the liquid to ensure that all the water from the nectar is evaporated. After most of the water in the honey 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.
Therefore, looking at the process and understanding the commercialization of honey farming, it makes sense when most vegans people consider honey a non-vegan food.
Note that the Vegan Society regards veganism as the way of living seeking to exclude, as far as is practicable and possible, all forms of exploitation of, and the cruelty to animals, for clothing, food, or any other purpose.
But if you are not causing harm to your chicken by eating the eggs, are you vegan? Maybe, maybe not. At the end of the day, it all depends on your point of view – this applies to honey.
Even so, The Vegan Society believes that honey isn’t vegan. They note that honey is produced by bees for bees. By harvesting the honey, the health of the bees is affected/ sacrificed.
Also, the harvesting of honey doesn’t match their definition of veganism since it results in cruelty and the exploitation of the bees. So, if you were seeking The Vegan Society’s direction on the matter, there is your answer – honey is not vegan.
Reasons Why Most Vegans Avoid or Don’t Eat Honey
While some people who call themselves vegans eat honey, many of the people who practice real veganism do not eat honey at all. So, as a result of this division, honey is one of the biggest sources of controversy among vegans.
The main reason for the controversy, according to research and observations, has to do with the fact that food from insects isn’t always regarded as a vegan.
For this reason, even the strictest of vegans who only indulge in plant-based diets tend to opt for honey in their diet. The reason why honey is regarded as a non-vegan option has to do with the following:
Honey is the result of the exploitation of bees. Therefore, the vegans who consider honey as a non-vegan food see no difference between beekeeping/ farming and all the other forms of animal farming.
It’s also noted that the 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 the 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 the honey production drops 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 the honey 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?
Well, the truth is that this issue is not spelled out in black and white. Like every other controversial matter, it has gray areas, just like the issue of eggs.
Some argue that if the honey is locally-produced from a small beekeeper who doesn’t alter the normal lives of the bees, then honey is ethical and can be eaten by vegans.
With beekeeping regarded as balanced, only when the excess honey is removed from the beehive and natural where the hive is left alone, whether honey is regarded as vegan food or a non-vegan food, comes down to perspective.
Note that in addition to honey, vegans also need to be careful about health and beauty products that are made of or with honey or bee byproducts. These products include bees propolis, royal jelly, manuka honey, and beeswax (Cera alba).
Best Vegan Alternatives to Honey
If you are a true vegan and are certain that you cannot eat honey, along with the other animal products, then you know that unlike bees, humans can live and thrive without honey in their diets.
But if you must have something that resembles or works in the same way as honey, then there are alternatives your sweet tooth will love. These alternatives include:
- Bee-Free Honey – the next best vegan alternative to honey is this bee-free honey, which is a branded sweetener made from fresh lemon juice, apples, and sugar. It looks like honey, it is not honey, but it’s vegan.
- Agave Syrup – agave syrup is extracted from cacti. It’s vegan-friendly, has a low-glycaemic load, and it’s the perfect sweetener for hot drinks and an excellent alternative to honey.
- Maple Syrup – maple syrup is 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 – this is a sweetener made out of sprouted barley. It is golden in color, with a flavor similar to the flavor of blackstrap molasses.
- Blackstrap Molasses – the blackstrap molasses refers to a thick and a dark-brown liquid that’s obtained from the boiling of sugarcane juice thrice. This extract is rich in calcium and iron.
- Brown Rice Syrup – this syrup is also called the malt/rice syrup. It is 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 – Yacon syrup is 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 – date syrup represents the 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.