During the last few years, the debate around vegans choosing not to eat honey has been controversial. There are strong arguments on both sides but by the end of the day, it seems like the balance is on the “do not eat honey” side.
People who aren’t too immersed in the world of veganism, probably beginning with a few improvements in their diet, often confuse honey with a vegan-friendly food. At first sight, it seems like honey is a quite natural thing and we aren’t “killing” an animal in order to enjoy it. However, there is a lot more to understand regarding honey. One of the things we often ignore is the methods beekeepers use to have a high yield in their honey harvesting activities.
In the following lines, we are not going to say what is right or wrong but to explain how honey as a product is affecting bees and the environment as a whole.
Understanding Honey and Honey Bees
In very simple words, honey is the bees’ prime energy source, their main food. They produce honey within the hives by regurgitating the enzymes they generate after a hard work of recollection and digestion. Honey bees do this because they require a collective reserve of energy. This is especially true as a method to endure harsh weather conditions.
When honey bees need nutrients, they go to their hives and make the most of stored honey. One of the key issues is that beekeepers replace the produced honey that is within the hives with a sugar-based aliment. Such replacements make massive harm to the bees, worsening their health very quickly. This is because it doesn’t provide the nutrients needed in a bees’ regular diet.
But before reaching this point, where beekeepers replace honey with some low-quality aliment, there is another problem, one that's probably more serious. Selective breeding is being used to create more productive honey bees. This is one of the top causes why the species is becoming endangered, mainly because they are getting weaker and more prone to diseases in the process.
How the Environment Suffers
Now, honey bees aren’t the only ones who suffer from harvesting. Weaker bees lead to disease-carrying honey that ultimately affects the environment and other species. This includes ourselves, humans.
Generally, the insecticides used by beekeepers in order to keep hives “healthy and productive” are the decisive factor here. The denominated Colony Collapse Disorder is more and more common these days. We see it when the vast majority of worker bees leaves the colony, leaving the queen, nurses, and immature bees behind. Most of the time, the worker bees leave no trace after their disappearance and the colony simply collapses.
The Colony Collapse Disorder remains a partial mystery: researchers don’t have comprehensive knowledge of the causes but there is evidence that insecticides and fungicides are two of the determining factors. After the collapse occurs, some of the consequences are deficient pollination of crops and dramatic habitat changes when the worker bees move in.
With the dramatic increase of honey production, occurrences of Colony Collapse Disorder are also becoming more frequent. Without question, this is one of the main ways in which the honey industry is affecting the environment while killing the bees. Here, we must realize that through honey production we’re exploiting bees.
Finally, there is a business behind honey research by using animals. Indeed, there are many animals getting sick and dying in testing labs because of honey. Many properties that are found within this ingredient are of great interest for several industries. Therefore, companies with the budget to do so are paying to research in-depth. Such research involves cruel treatment of animals.
Nutrient-wise, vegans don’t have any real need of consuming honey. A vegan person will not experience nutrient deficiencies or health issues if honey isn’t present in her diet. Besides this good news, there is another: there are many sweet alternatives to replace honey in our lives.
Some great example of this are agave nectar, maple syrup, date syrup, butterscotch syrup, molasses, coconut nectar, brown rice syrup, and barley malt syrup. These sweet ingredients can be used to perfectly replace honey in most recipes. And yes, they are truly vegan-friendly sweets that come from non-intrusive, non-environmental-destructive production methods.
The Bottom Line
Choosing honey to make your life sweeter comes at a great cost to the environment. Harvesting honey is detrimental to bees’ health, besides the known consequence that affected habitats may experience.
All vegans must be aware of the harm we may be causing to the bee population because of our innocent consumption of honey in the everyday. Like most things around us, they require a little bit of attention in order to understand them properly and know what we can do to help.It’s up to you now. There are many vegans who feel that not eating honey could be excessive and this may be an acceptable point of view. Now you know how the honey industry is influencing nature around us and with these facts at hand, you are able to take a firm decision.