You’re Not Vegan If You’re Still Eating Honey

Vanessa Etienne
·3-min read

Whether it’s for a cup of tea or a nice warm biscuit, almost everyone enjoys a touch of honey.

But there’s one group of individuals that often steer clear of honey: vegans.

Being vegan is a lifestyle of excluding the use and consumption of products that come from animals, hoping to minimise animal cruelty and exploitation. It’s easy to group meat, eggs, and dairy into the category of foods that are off limits. But there might be a grey area when the conversation starts to detail foods that come from insects.

So, we’re drawing the line for any vegan who’s not sure about whether or not they should keep honey in their diets.

Is honey vegan?

The question has been long debated, but no, it’s not. Honey is produced from bees (Yes, insects are considered animals) and therefore is not a vegan product. According to PETA, honey is the energy source for bees and they would starve without it, especially during winter and poor weather conditions.

Conventional beekeeping works to harvest the largest amount of honey. When the honey is removed from the hive, beekeepers often replace it with a sugar alternative, which is lacking in the essential nutrients of honey and harmful to the bees’ health. The Vegan Society reports that some bees are also subject to mass breeding, which can lead to diseases and large-scale die-offs.

“Beekeepers use smoke and gas to manipulate bee colonies," explains PETA. "Queen bees are killed and replaced without warning, causing distress throughout the entire hive.”

Many vegans don’t consume honey in order to avoid contribution to this animal exploitation. So, if that’s the case, then why is the question about honey being vegan even debatable?

Why do some argue that honey is vegan?

The honey controversy has definitely been a sticky subject. Although most vegans do not consume honey, those that do consume it argue that buying locally-produced honey is ethical because the beekeeping practices are less harsh than commercial methods. These individuals will occasionally be cheekily referred to as being “beegan.” Some methods that local farmers use are “balanced beekeeping” and “natural beekeeping,” where emphasis is placed on bee welfare and facilitating the natural behaviours of the bees without harm.

While these extraction methods are safer and more progressive, harvesting honey in any capacity requires destruction of the beehive and bee community to some extent. According to The Vegan Society, bees also cannot consent to sharing their honey with humans, making consuming or using honey fundamentally unethical as a vegan.

Vegan Alternatives for Honey

Although honey is not vegan, it’s still nice to have similar options when your sweet tooth is calling. Luckily, there are a few alternatives to choose from.

  • Bee Free Honee: An apple-based sweetener with lemon juice and sugar that is a spot-on honey alternative with six different flavours to choose from.

  • Date Paste: A natural sweetener that can easily be made at home. Just blend a handful of pitted dates with water until it reaches a honey-like consistency.

  • Agave Nectar: Not the healthiest option, but it tastes almost exactly like honey and is a great mimic for recipes requiring it.

  • Maple Syrup: Although the flavour is different, it works for any recipe that calls for honey.

  • Brown Rice Syrup: Made from the broken down starch in rice, this is a good choice for anyone looking to cut down on sugar intake.

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