noun hon·ey \ˈhə-nē\
Honey: a sweet food made by bees, causing a lot of controversy for vegans
Is honey vegan?
Yes it’s true, it’s one of the most controversial issues among both vegans and non-vegans alike. As a vegan I avoid honey and bee products. This makes sense. After all, honey is an animal derivative and vegans do not consume animal products. To many, veganism is an ethical philosophy which also involves being mindful of industry practices. Of course it’s a personal preference, as some disagree and believe that avoiding ingredients like honey can harm the vegan movement by appearing too pedantic.
So, does the farming of bees really hurt animals and the environment? Are bees even animals? Are vegans being ridiculous? What is the big deal?
Before forming a view, it’s important to know the honey basics- how a bee is actually an animal, how beekeeping is nothing more than another form of factory farming, and how our crops really get pollinated. Below we answer some popular faqs in this guide about honey!
Don’t bees naturally make honey as a result of pollinating? Isn’t this good for the environment?
Yes, and no. The first and most important thing to know know about honeybees is that they are not native to most countries. The honeybee’s origin goes back to Asia around 300,000 years ago and they were rapidly spread across the world.
Not surprisingly, most countries around the world have a lack of – or no – laws for bee farming. The global trade in bees has created a spread of diseases around the world. And even if this can be controlled in regulated bee farms, like other resistant organisms, there is a resistance to pesticides.
Another important environmental factor to consider is that most countries import honey. This means honey is mass produced from factory farming environments which is a big unethical no.
About 85% of honey in the UK comes from Vietnam, China, Mexico, Australia, and Argentina. Germany, the world’s largest importer of honey, gets theirs from Argentina, China, and Mexico. And this doesn’t even take into consideration the impact on the environment from transporting managed bee colonies back and forth across the country pollinating crops.
If you’ve now steered away from honey – luckily for you, finding a replacement isn’t so bad. There are heaps of vegan alternatives and although some are more comparable to honey, all of them are derived from plants meaning they are ethically welcoming for everyone!
Agave nectar is a sweetener derived from the agave plant. Agave is sweeter than honey with a milder flavour. And, like honey, there isn’t much to miss as agave nectar comes in a variety of styles each with its own distinct flavour. Darker nectar’s have a caramel taste, while the lighter range is more comparable to honey.
Sourced from coconut palms, coconut nectar has a sweet, tangy, taste with surprisingly no coconut flavour. It is high in amino acids, vitamins and minerals – a bonus! The nectar also is low-glycemic.
Maple syrup is commonly known to the avid pancake lover. The syrup is derived from the sap of maple trees. The trees store starch which is converted to sugar and then maple syrup – pretty neat huh!
Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup is a sweetener made from exposing rice to enzymes that break down starches to sugars. Who would’ve though rice could result in a sweet caramel flavour?
With these alternatives who’s to say you’re going to miss honey! If you’d like to support bees and love honey please consider buying alternatives instead of buying beeswax products, honey, or its derivatives