If there’s a contentious issue in this life, then the question “is honey vegan?” is that issue.
That’s because the answer is complicated and it involves emotions on either side of the issue.
The Official Position: Is Honey Vegan?
For our official answer, we turn to The Vegan Society.
We can’t think of a more “official” vegan body and thus, we think that what they have to say on the matter lends weight to the issue.
They say; “No. Honey isn’t vegan.”
In fact, they say it’s the most misunderstood concept in veganism!
Why Isn’t Honey Vegan?
Well, this depends on your definition of veganism and it’s why this answer is controversial.
The Vegan Society tried to define veganism as refusing not just products that are cruel to animals but also products which exploit those animals.
And they argue that honey exploits the honey bees and thus, shouldn’t be part of a vegan diet..
Hang On? Honey Exploits Honey Bees?
Yes, and they have a point. Honey isn’t an accidental byproduct of living in a hive and hanging out with other bees.
It has a purpose in bee society and that purpose isn’t for greedy humans to come along and steal it and make sandwiches and cakes out of it.
Honey is, in fact, a store of energy that bees use to get through the winter when there are no flowers in bloom and no delicious nectar to consume.
So, Bees Are Killed For Honey?
No. Fortunately, that’s not what happens.
When beekeepers take the honey out of a hive, they replace it with a sugar solution.
In effect, they swap one source of energy for another.
The bees don’t starve to death because of a lack of honey.
Well, unless a bear steals the honey but most beekeepers are not Winnie the Pooh.
Then Why Isn’t Honey Vegan?
The Vegan society says that the sugar solution that is provided is not as good for the bees as the honey that is taken from them.
It is lacking in “micronutrients” and thus, the beekeeper is exploiting the bees by condemning them to eat bee fast food for the winter rather than bee delicacies that they made themselves.
Could Honey Be Vegan?
Yes, in fact, it could. Bees don’t need all the honey that they make.
And bees are essential to life on earth.
So, it could be argued that someone who started beekeeping and only took a small part of the honey, was, in fact, consuming vegan honey.
We would point out that you don’t have to eat the honey at all, bees can also make for great pets (no exploitation required).
Final Thoughts: Is Honey Vegan?
Commercial honey isn’t vegan – we agree with the Vegan Society, exploitation isn’t cool even if it isn’t as extreme as it is in most forms of animal farming.
But we do think that there’s a place for vegan honey and that’s when you produce your own and you let your bees keep some of the harvest for themselves.