Are you a Vegan, Vegetarian or just someone concerned about the origin of their food? Have you always wondered if you could make use of honey as in an animal product free diet? I am glad you found this post because all the answers to your questions are here.
Is honey vegan? The straight answer to that question is NO! The unfortunate truth is that the consumption of honey is actually bad for bees and it also damages the environment. Honey consumption has grave consequences for our food supply. Though trying to avoid products derived from insects could seem a little bit extreme, but if we really want to care for the weak, then it should be avoided.
Still in doubt? Is honey vegan? Does honey consumption have a negative effect on bees? Would the environment also be affected or are we just being extreme? Read further and see for yourself.
Are Bees Animals?
To be honest, there are lots of animal products which cannot be avoided and examples include; medications, cars, laptops and many more. Our world is non-vegan, and the best thing vegans can do is try their best to avoid all animal products which they can realistically avoid. Honey is also on the list of animal products they should avoid.
The question that comes to mind now is; are bees animals? Asking this kind of question would generate different types of answers, most of those answers would be incorrect. A bee is an insect, and an insect is an animal. Since a bee is an animal and honey is derived from bees, this makes honey not vegan. We’re not talking about liquidised bees here, just that they work and die to produce honey and mass production of honey is really an abuse of the poor bee.
If you have agreed that honey is not vegan, then you should ponder on what you can use to replace honey in your meals. There are lots of syrups that would suitably take the place of honey in your meals and they are all vegan-friendly.
All these syrups are derived from plants and they are of no harm to neither human nor animal. They include:
- Agave Nectar: This is a sweetener which is produced from different species of the agave plant. This is the same plant where tequila is produced from. Agave originates from South Africa and Mexico. It is sweeter than honey and it comes in different styles depending on your preference, ranging from light to dark amber, just like honey. They also have their own unique flavour.
- Coconut Nectar: Just like the name implies. This nectar is derived from the sap of coconut palms. It has a tangy and sweet taste with no hint of coconut flavour. It has high level of amino acids, minerals and vitamins.
- Maple Syrup: This is derived from the xylem of maple trees either red maple, sugar maple or black maple trees. During the cold climate, starch is stored in the trunks and roots of these trees before the winter. The starch is what would then be converted to sugar which rises in the sap in the spring.
- Molasses: This is sugar derived by refining sugarcane or sugar beets. You must have taken molasses before either in your baked beans or gingerbread. Though not much thought is usually given towards it. Blackstrap molasses is a perfect source of calcium and Iron. It also comes in different flavours and varieties.
- Barley Malt Syrup: This syrup is derived from roasted sprouted barley and it has a malt-like flavour.
- Brown Rice Syrup: This sweetener can be made by exposure of cooked rice to enzymes which would help break down the starch and turn them into smaller sugars. After which all the impurities would be filtered out and you would be left with a dark syrup which would have a caramel flavour.
Avoiding honey should be consistent with vegans because a bee is an animal and it does not necessarily have to do with you being a perfect vegan. We just cannot overlook the ethical implications and environmental consequences of industrialised bee husbandry.
Honey is just like any other animal product which has been mass marketed and mass manufactured. If you really must make use of sweeteners in your meal, you should just use the alternatives mentioned above. Usage of honey is exploitative and also highly unnecessary.
Foods Derived from Bees
Honey is not the only food derived from bees that have purported health claims, there are three that are very common and they are:
- Bee Pollen: These products have a long list of purported health claims though there is not enough scientific evidence to back that up.
- Royal Jelly: Royal jelly also has many health and beauty benefits which have been attributed to it, but as with the bee pollen there is not enough substantive evidence to back that up.
- Propolis: Here is a mixture collected by honey bees from different botanical sources such as; tree buds, sap flows and many more. Though it is claimed to have lots of health benefits, it also has severe allergic reactions in some cases.
Bees and Other Pollinators
Bees are commonly referred to as pollinators, though they are not alone in this category. There are other pollinators such as birds, ants and also butterflies. These are animal pollinators and they help in pollinating one-third of our crops. It should be noted that humans would not survive without animal-pollinated plants.
If you want to help these pollinators survive, here is how you can help;
- Have a garden:
Just like it is with any non-human animal community, destruction of habitat is threatening their existence around the world. The habitat for bees which includes; lawns and native landscapes are all disappearing. So to help the existence of bees, you could just put up flowering plants in your garden or where space is an issue, you could set up a flower box or a container garden.
- Supply water and homes to native bees:
Native bees prefer burrowing and when you leave a patch of your garden uncultivated, this would encourage that. Some bees also require access to the soil surface for nesting. Piles of branches, bamboo sections, nesting blocks which have been made from untreated wood would do it for wood and stem-nesting bees. Mason bees in particular require water and mud.
Many bees are attracted to weedy and untended hedgerows. Bees also love clean and fresh water, you can provide for this by filling a shallow pot or container with twigs so the bees can land on them while drinking.
- Never use Herbicides or Pesticides:
You should totally avoid the use of herbicides or pesticides in your garden because this kind of treatment is really toxic to bees, and not just bees also humans and any other living thing that comes to visit. This treatment is even more porous especially when they are applied when the flower is in bloom. The chemical would easily get to the pollen and nectar which would then be transferred to the hive and into the honey which would be consumed by any human that takes that honey. Naturally, praying mantis and ladybugs would keep the population of your garden in check.
- Buy local and organic food:
Always ensure that you buy only local and organic food, this means no pesticides and it would also help you in eating seasonally. Always buy from a local farmer’s market or a community supported farm.
- Try to avoid bee products:
Avoid taking any product which has bees has its source, and then advocate for a cleaner and bigger hive. A hive that eats honey not fructose corn syrup, a hive which is not bombarded or bees that are not artificially inseminated because these bees also deserve a life free from human obligations.
- How is Honey made?
Usually, honey bees would fly from their hive to collect pollen, which is a mixture collected from tree buds, sap flows and different sources and they are used to seal unwanted open spaces in their hives and nectar. The nectar is where honey is derived from.
Nectar is usually extracted from flowers and stored in the “honey stomach” while flying back to the hive, enzymes are secreted in the crop and pH of the nectar, which makes it more suitable for long-term purposes.
- Why shouldn’t I keep bees commercially?
Commercial beekeepers always use antibiotics on their bees whether they are sick or not. This has proven to contribute to immune system deficiencies and also promote the development of antibiotic-resistant super pests and diseases.
They also make use of pesticides and fumigants which have side effects on the health of bees and humans as well. Artificial insemination is also used on the queen bee to make them more docile, change colour and also increase honey production, which is the main aim.
There is always the loss of lives of some bees during harvesting and collection. The beekeeper is inevitably but unintentionally injure or crush some bees while harvesting honey.