Is honey vegan? Reasons for and against using honey

Bees produce honey as a food source to sustain the colony through the winter. Some people believe that taking this food source explodes and harms the bees. Avoiding animal exploitation is a basic principle of veganism, which is why most vegans do not eat honey.

Honey is a natural product that many humans enjoy for its sweetness, nutritional value, and versatility. People use it in cooking, baking, traditional medicine, and cosmetics.

Beekeeping, or apiculture, is the practice of keeping honey bees and hives to produce beeswax, honey, or other bee-related products.

Vegans avoid consuming or using products that harm or exploit animals, including meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, leather, shellac, silk, or products tested on animals. Many vegans consider beekeeping to be exploitative, so they avoid eating and using honey.

This article outlines the reasons why some people think honey is acceptable in a vegan lifestyle and why many vegans avoid using it. We also suggest some vegan alternatives to honey.

Bees collect nectar from flowers to do honey. Natural enzymes in the bees’ saliva break down the nectar into fructose and glucose, which the bees store in the combs to feed the hive during the winter. The constant flapping of the bees’ wings evaporates excess water to leave thick, sticky honey.

Beekeepers extract honey from the hive and then filter it to remove wax and other particles. This leaves raw honey. Raw honey is often intensely heated or pasteurized to kill pathogens. The result is processed honey.

Learn more about raw vs. processed honey here.

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People may think that honey is acceptable in a vegan lifestyle due to various beliefs, including:

They believe that bees are not animals

Some people think that vegans simply avoid eating meat, fish, and animal products.

However the vegan philosophy it extends to avoiding any product or practice that exploits animals, including insects, for the benefit of humans.

They believe that more bees are good for the environment

Bees and other pollinators, such as wasps, beetles and flies, are essential for the pollination of plants.

Without pollinators, plants cannot produce flowers, fruits, and seeds. Therefore, it may seem logical that the more bees there are, the better for the natural environment. While this is partially true, large colonies of industrial-scale honey bees tend to monopolize food sources and displace other pollinators, reducing the diversity of the ecosystem.

They believe that bees overproduce honey

Another reason some vegans use honey is that they believe bees produce more honey than they actually need. Therefore, removing much of the honey from the hives does not deprive the bees of their food source.

However, this may be a simplistic view. According to the Natural Beekeeping Trust in the UK, bees do not overproduce honey. Bee colonies store honey to keep the hive warm during the winter and use it as a source of energy during months when there is little to eat.

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Learn more about vegan diets here.

Reasons some vegans don’t eat or use honey products include:

They believe that honey production exploits bees

Most honey is produced on an industrial scale by companies that manage large colonies of bees. To maximize profits, they employ practices that some people consider exploitative.

These practices include:

  • clip the wings of queen bees to prevent them from leaving the colony
  • use of pesticides and antibiotics to control pests and pathogens
  • feeding the bees nutritionally inferior sugar syrup to replace your lost honey

They believe that honey production harms ecosystems

Large-scale beekeeping can perpetuate the spread of infection among pollinators. This may have contributed to the decline in pollinating species during the last 50 years.

honey producers often transport colonies of bees over long distances to pollinate crops when they are in bloom. Over several months, millions of farmed bees mingle with wild pollinators, increasing the likelihood of spreading parasites and infections.

Another impact of bees feeding on a single crop is that they do not get multiple nutrients, which harms your health. They may also be exposed to particular agrochemicals that cause them more harm.

There are many plant-based vegan alternatives to honey. They include:

  • Maple syrup
  • date syrup
  • molasses
  • agave nectar
  • coconut nectar
  • rice syrup
  • barley malt syrup
  • cane honey

Vegans may want to check product labels carefully as some syrups contain animal fats or animal-derived anti-foaming agents.

Learn more about plant-based diets here.

Most vegans choose not to consume honey or use honey-based products because they believe that honey production exploits bees.

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However, some people believe that keeping bees is ethical as they help pollinate plants. The counterargument is that the ratio of bees to other pollinators is unbalanced and may contribute to a decline in pollinator diversity.

Large-scale honey producers employ practices that many vegans consider unethical, such as taking nectar from honey bees and replacing it with sugar syrup with low nutritional value.

If people following a vegan lifestyle would like the sweet taste and sticky consistency of honey, there are several plant-based alternatives, such as agave nectar and maple syrup.