The great avocado debate: Is the millennial staple suitable for vegans or not?

Are avocados suitable for vegans or not? [Photo: Getty]

According to recent figures, there are more than 3.5 million people across Britain identifying as vegan with a growing number of restaurants now catering for those opting to go meat and dairy free.

But last week, a global debate kick-started online after it was revealed that the avocado might not be suitable for practising vegans after all.

On a recent episode of ‘QI’, British-Danish comedian Sandi Toksvig made the surprising claim that every millennial‘s go-to fruit should be avoided by those who eschew products made by animals.

Similar to almonds, broccoli, cherries, lettuce, cucumber and melon, the television presenter claimed that avocados are not vegan due to the use of bees in an “unnatural way”.

“It’s the same reason as honey,” Toksvig explained in the episode. “They [avocados] can’t exist without bees. Because they are so difficult to cultivate naturally, all of these crops rely on bees which are placed on the back of trucks and taken very long distances across the country.”

Unsurprisingly, the headline-gracing topic soon sparked a global debate over on social media.

One took to Twitter to express their surprise, as they wrote: “It has fried my brain that avocado/broccoli/cherries etc aren’t actually vegan”.

In response to the backlash, practising vegans promptly took to Twitter to defend the fruit with many claiming that the divisive transporting hives is unavoidable.

“This thing about avocados not being vegan is another desperate attempt to make veganism look impossible. Moving hives is a common practice, bees don’t need avocados like they need their own honey (also avocados aren’t a strictly vegan food so don’t make it a strictly vegan issue)”, one tweeted.

Another social media user emphasised that veganism “is about reducing harm as far as is possible and practicable” and argued that eating avocados is still the better option than a diet consisting of meat, dairy and eggs – regardless of migratory beekeeping.

While one pointed out that a large number of vegetable and fruit crops also rely on bees to pollinate.

They tweeted: “This is just silly. Lots of things rely on bees to pollinate… Most vegetable and fruit crops in fact. Despite the obvious use of animals unnaturally, it is a Red Herring tossed out to irritate vegans. If pesticides weren’t ubiquitous, local bees could do the job.”

Are avocados suitable for vegans?

According to an Oxford professor of medical ethics, 31 billion bees are transported to Californian almond farms every year and research indicates that these journeys affect their health and subsequently shorten their lifespan.

Dominic Wilkinson wrote in an article for website The Conversation: “While the amount of suffering experienced by an individual bee is probably small, this would be magnified by the very large number of insects potentially affected.”

He warned, “A vegan who chooses to eat almonds or avocados is not doing what would most reduce animal suffering.”

Yet although the news may come as a surprise to some, there are several ‘vegan’ foods that are cultivated in a similar manner to avocados.

“This is a bit if a can of worms no pun intended: a lot of vegan foods like fruits and vegetables require pollination from bees, so for very austere vegans this might come as shock news,” explains London-based nutritionist Kamilla Schaffner. “In the same manner, wine of all things is not strictly vegan either: it requires an animal enzyme (from cows) for successful fermentation process.”

“This goes to show that veganism is not really a dietary structure as such but an ethical or even philosophical approach to life and living,” she continues. “What is incredible is how intricately our world is interconnected: animals and insects do add value to crops and food production in the most intricate ways, maybe as the nature intended after all. “

Dominika Piasecka, spokesperson for The Vegan Society, also understands how difficult it is to come to reach a conclusive decision on whether or not avocados are vegan.

“We are aware that many forms of farming involve indirect harm to animals but it is unfortunately not possible or practicable to avoid the use of animals in most farming at this time,” Piasecka told Yahoo UK. “However, we do not consider that just because it is not possible to avoid one hundred percent of animal exploitation that we should not bother at all.”

“Vegans make a huge contribution to the reduction in suffering and death caused to animals and we would welcome any changes made to farming practises that support this. We would of course prefer that no animals, including bees, were used in the production of all food.”

What do you think?

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