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#1 Old 12-04-2016, 06:01 PM
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Question Honey?

Should I eat honey? I'm not aware of any environmental/cruelty issues.
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#2 Old 12-04-2016, 06:42 PM
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Should I eat honey? I'm not aware of any environmental/cruelty issues.

Most vegans will say no. For one thing, it's an animal product, and vegans don't eat animal products. Having a bright line rule and sticking to it is sometimes useful. For another thing, I believe that when the honey is harvested from a commercial hive, the process results in some of the bees' legs being chopped off and some of the bees dying, so there is potentially some suffering, to whatever extent bees are sentient and capable of suffering.

On the other hand, I believe I've read that the number of insects harmed or killed in the harvesting of honey is, per calorie, about the same as the number of insects harmed or killed in the harvesting of plants like wheat, corn, and soy, so it's possible that eating honey is no more harmful to animals than eating plants is. Also, while I'm certain that a pig is sentient and capable of suffering and feeling pain, and I'm pretty sure that the same can be said of salmon and tilapia, I have my doubts about insects. If there is sentience, and I suspect there is probably some, I'd guess it's of a rudimentary nature, because insects don't have brains, though they do have a simple nervous system consisting of various ganglia dispersed throughout the body.

Bottom line: honey is not vegan, so if you want to eat a vegan diet, don't eat honey. On the other hand, if you're interested in avoiding animal suffering, eating honey might not cause any more animals to suffer than eating plants does.

As for me, I am not technically a vegan. I am a vegetarian who eats vegan almost all of the time, with the exception being occasional cheese (and, I guess, honey) in social situations. I don't buy honey or use it at home because it's unnecessary. Sugar, agave nectar, and maple syrup are, as far as I can tell, perfect substitutes depending on the dish. On the other hand, if I'm out somewhere and there is cornbread on a restaurant menu that has small amounts of honey in it, if I want cornbread, I'm not going to avoid ordering it because of the honey.

Last edited by Dilettante; 12-04-2016 at 07:03 PM.
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#3 Old 12-04-2016, 07:25 PM
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The vast majority of bees are employed in commercial honey operations. The honey, which the bees make for themselves, is replaced with inexpensive sugar-water, typically diluted corn syrup. As a result, the bees are obliged to work in a weakened physical condition, with a high mortality rate. They are susceptible to disease, like bacterial infections, which forces beekeepers to artificially medicate their bees by the tens of thousands. This is all offset by the profit made from the sale of pure honey, part of 'business as usual.' To suppose the honey industry is cruelty-free is incorrect. It's actually quite brutal.

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#4 Old 12-04-2016, 09:00 PM
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Like many things, it's not so black and white.

Officially I think the answer would be no. Vegans avoid animal products. However, bees are a vital part of our food supply since they pollinate our crops. Even if you don't eat honey commercial bees are being used in your food production.

The bees are making it for themselves, but beekeepers take some (not all) of the honey. However, there are times when it would be necessary to feed them sugar water (or "candy boards"); periods of darth (nothing is blooming), when setting up a new hive since it wouldn't have a honey store yet, and possibly overwinter if they don't have enough stored up. They can get sick or suffer from mites, but the same is true for wild bees.

Selling the honey isn't necessary for commercial beekeepers to make a living, most of their money comes from pollination services (loading hives onto trucks and moving them from one field to another).

I think Dilettante brought up some good points. Unfortunately, it's impossible to live without killing other beings (accidentally, pesticides, harvesting,...) And do bees suffer?

Maybe some other things to consider would be if eating honey is healthy or necessary.
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#5 Old 12-05-2016, 01:52 AM
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Originally Posted by bearplate View Post
Like many things, it's not so black and white.

Officially I think the answer would be no. Vegans avoid animal products. However, bees are a vital part of our food supply since they pollinate our crops. Even if you don't eat honey commercial bees are being used in your food production.

The bees are making it for themselves, but beekeepers take some (not all) of the honey. However, there are times when it would be necessary to feed them sugar water (or "candy boards"); periods of darth (nothing is blooming), when setting up a new hive since it wouldn't have a honey store yet, and possibly overwinter if they don't have enough stored up. They can get sick or suffer from mites, but the same is true for wild bees.

Selling the honey isn't necessary for commercial beekeepers to make a living, most of their money comes from pollination services (loading hives onto trucks and moving them from one field to another).

I think Dilettante brought up some good points. Unfortunately, it's impossible to live without killing other beings (accidentally, pesticides, harvesting,...) And do bees suffer?

Maybe some other things to consider would be if eating honey is healthy or necessary.
The pollination of crops is an integral part of our food supply, but it can hardly be compared to eating bees' food supply. Eating food pollinated by bees is vegan, but eating honey is no more vegan than drinking cows' milk.

I'm not proud of it, but I worked one year- spring, summer and fall- as a beekeeper's assistant, and saw first-hand how it's done. It was basically a mom and pop operation: he did the field work, while she kept the books. He hired one man (me) as a helper, and in late-summer hired two other guys, part-time, to run the extraction process- the cutters, centrifuge, etc. He kept about 1000 hives, arranged into 'yards,' each yard composed of about 30-hives, spread over a 3-county area. Local farmers were happy to provide a small patch of ground for one of his yards, knowing their crops would benefit from the bees' presence.

First, the hives, which were small at that point, were uncovered from their winter wraps. The beekeeper went into every single hive, until he located its queen-bee, and inspected her. Any queen-bee that was adjudged to be too small or weak was systematically destroyed, literally smashed underfoot, and replaced with a new queen-bee, obtained from a mail-order house that breeds queens for just that purpose. Roughly half (about 500) of the queen-bees were killed this way, in the interest of a more efficient operation. We also fed the bees a corn syrup mixture. The corn syrup is bought in bulk, watered down, and carried in a tank on a small flat-bed truck.

After a brief mating season, the hives begin to grow. We would add boxes to the existing hives, as the colonies required more room. By harvest time, many of the hives were taller than the men working them.

The beekeeper only supplemented his income by "renting out" bees. In early summer, he sent one load of bees from Wisconsin to California. The living hives- hundreds of them- were loaded onto a flat-bed semi-trailer, covered over with a tarp, then trucked at high speed (70 m.p.h.) almost 2000-miles, over two mountain ranges, to some almond groves out west. After a month or two, when the pollination was done, they were shipped back, the same way, so any honey produced could be collected.

At one point, a queen-bee and her colony escaped her hive and established a natural one in a nearby wood. The beekeeper tracked them down, sawed off the tree branch, on which they had set up house, carried it back to the bee-yard, and forced them back into the artificial hive.

Many times, whole hives were adjudged to be ill, and had to be medicated. This is accomplished by dusting inside the hive with a fine antibacterial powder, which the bees either ingest, or else absorb through the skin, or through the eyes.

It's the bees' natural instinct to defend their hive from intruders. This is why beekeepers are obliged to wear protective clothing. A bee can sting just once. When it jabs its barbed stinger into a foe, the stinger pulls the bee's lower abdomen from its body, spilling her intestines. When a bee stings, it gives its life, defending its home. They are not normally aggressive, but attack in self-defense. They do not surrender their honey voluntarily, but do what they can to protect it.

The beekeeper didn't take just some of the honey. He took almost all of it. That year, I had occasion to meet several other beekeepers, who worked adjoining areas. I had the distinct impression I was working for an "average" honey operation- not too big, not too small. That summer was unusually cool and damp, so honey production was low. When we were done, we had harvested not quite 5000-gallons of raw honey. On average, that's almost 5-gallons per hive, leaving precious little for the bees. It was then sold in bulk, in 55-gallon drums, to a major food corporation, who came and trucked it away.

The last thing we did, was to re-wrap the hives- now small again- in tar paper, against the approaching winter cold. This included feeding the bees, what few that remained alive, one last time with corn syrup, to help them survive.

I'm not an expert on the honey industry, but it will be hard to convince me it's some sort of happy, symbiotic cooperation between man and insect. The bees understand no more how they're being exploited than do the cows that are milked. It's done for one reason alone. Money.

Bees can be encouraged- even helped- to pollinate our crops, but that doesn't mean we have to extract from them the price we do. People can live very easily, without eating honey.

"There is more wisdom in the song of a bird, than in the speech of a philosopher...." -Oahspe
"The thing is, you cannot judge a race. Any man who judges by the group is a pea-wit. You take men one at a time." -Buster Kilrain, The Killer Angels -Michael Shaara
"Anyone who doesn't believe in miracles isn't a realist." -Billy Wilder

Last edited by Capstan; 12-05-2016 at 05:11 PM.
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#6 Old 12-05-2016, 01:55 AM
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I have bees in my back yard. Four beehives. I have been keeping bees for a little over 40 years. I got my first beehive when I was 7 years old. (My dad helped)
We usually rob one or two of them each year with gives us an enormous amount of honey. Enough to give a couple of gallons away to neighbors, friends and family, and still have two or three gallons left over for the following year… We don't buy sugar, we don't buy Maple syrup (which has to be shipped 2500 miles to a store near us) We use honey. It may not be strictly vegan, but it is much more environmentally friendly than buying "vegan" products from all over the world. No factory packaging. We reuse mason jars season after season. We even trained our neighbors to return the jars if they want more.
I've never sold a single jar of honey.

We don't clip the queen's wings. If the hive is unhappy they are free to abscond anytime they wish. We never take more than half of what they produce, ensuring they have plenty to eat in the hot Texas summer and the short winter. Summer in South Texas is sort of like Winter -everything dies.
We don't use any chemicals of any kind and we do not interfere with their natural reproductive cycles (swarming). We don't harvest pollen or royal jelly.

It's true, on occasion I have accidentally killed a bee while harvesting honey, but it isn't generally difficult to avoid killing them. If too many die they literally smell it and they attack en mass. It isn't pretty.

I wear a veil over my head and half the time I don't even wear gloves. I do have one hive that gets upset easily compared to the other three. I wear a full jacket and gloves when I'm working on that hive. Generally, if you treat them gently they usually just move out of your way.
Over the years I have learned that while individual bees may not be what we would call sentient, The hive definitely has its own mind. Each hive has it's own personality: Gentle, aggressive, lethargic, etc. Some hives enjoy robbing other hives. Yes, some hives are thieves.

Some will read this and say it doesn't matter and I'm ok with that. My conscience is clear and I sleep quite well.
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#7 Old 12-05-2016, 08:52 AM
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The pollination of crops is an integral part of our food supply, but it can hardly be compared to eating bees' food supply. Eating food pollinated by bees is vegan, but eating honey is no more vegan than drinking cows' milk.

. . .

I'm not an expert on the honey industry, but it will be hard to convince me it's some sort of happy, symbiotic cooperation between man and insect. The bees understand no more how they're being exploited than do the cows that are milked. It's done for one reason alone. Money.


I don't think anyone here said that honey was vegan. I know I certainly didn't, and neither did Bearplate, as far as I can tell. What I said is that, while not vegan, eating honey probably causes no more animal suffering than eating vegan foods, like wheat or soy, on a per calorie basis. This is because insects are killed and injured in the harvesting process of plant crops to the same degree as in the harvesting of honey.

So, again, if someone is eating a vegan diet to avoid harm to animals, it's quite likely that the non-vegan food honey achieves that goal to the same extent as many vegan foods do. That doesn't make honey vegan, but it makes it as harm-free as vegan food. At least potentially. I include that caveat because I'm not 100% certain that harvesting honey is equivalent to harvesting plant crops when it comes to insect death and dismemberment. I don't have a citation.

Either way, focusing on honey is not all that productive an effort, in my opinion. Killing pigs, chicken, and fish for food is far more of a problem under any event because they are far more sentient, I suspect, than insects.

By the same token, I'm a vegetarian who eats vegan almost all of the time, and I don't go out of my way to eat honey. I don't buy it for my pantry. Sugar, agave nectar, and maple syrup are good substitutes for it. However, I wouldn't necessarily avoid an item on a restaurant menu just because it has honey.

Last edited by Dilettante; 12-05-2016 at 08:56 AM.
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#8 Old 12-05-2016, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Riuma View Post
Should I eat honey? I'm not aware of any environmental/cruelty issues.
Well one thing I have heard is that in order to stupefy the bees, the keepers fill the hive with some sort of smoke. Imagine yourself in a smoke filled room and unable to breathe. Personally, that doesn't sound very nice to me.

Last edited by 121938; 12-05-2016 at 09:37 AM.
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#9 Old 12-05-2016, 02:16 PM
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However, bees are a vital part of our food supply since they pollinate our crops. Even if you don't eat honey commercial bees are being used in your food production.
.
The bees transported around to pollinate crops are a specific in-bred honey bee. The breeding and distribution of these bees crowds out wild bee populations (which would pollinate crops freely, and set up nests near croplands naturally as that is where food is available to them). Transporting honey bee hives from one place to another to give them food causes a lot of death to the bees, and distributes diseases to a wider area that can infect local wild bee population. The only really ethical way to "use" bees would be to make habitats near crop lands that local wild bees could easily set up home, and then simply leave them alone after that.
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Carnist: Someone who kills animals and then takes from their bodies.
Vegetarian: Someone who takes from animals' bodies, and then kills them when they are no longer profitable.
Vegan: Someone who tries to avoid unnecessary harm to animals as much as is possible and practicable.
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#10 Old 12-06-2016, 06:18 AM
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I have no issue with honey, it is healthier then sugar due to it's antibiotic/anti-viral/anti-fungal properties, not to mention organic honey contains many good probiotics, is better for people with blood sugar disorders (like me), and is considered a natural treatment for about a dozen conditions from bronchial asthma to nausea, hence many herbal remedies use honey and have for the past 4,000 years at leased.
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#11 Old 12-06-2016, 08:16 AM
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I have no issue with honey, it is healthier then sugar due to it's antibiotic/anti-viral/anti-fungal properties, not to mention organic honey contains many good probiotics, is better for people with blood sugar disorders (like me), and is considered a natural treatment for about a dozen conditions from bronchial asthma to nausea, hence many herbal remedies use honey and have for the past 4,000 years at leased.

However, some of the bees are dismembered and killed during the harvesting process. This makes it inherently suspect, in my opinion, because it might cause suffering. On the other hand, I believe I've heard that the number of bees harmed and killed is about the same as the number of insects harmed and killed when harvesting plants. If that's the case, then honey is morally neutral compared to plant-based foods (though still not vegan, if the label matters to someone). Moreover, I believe the sentience of insects is in question. If I had to guess, I'd guess there is some sentience, but it's minimal.

In sum, honey is imo a marginal food item. I don't recommend consuming it when given hassle-free alternative options. Sugar, agave nectar, and maple syrup are good substitutes. On the other hand, it's probably not so morally problematic that it's worth avoiding a food item at a restaurant just because it contains honey. (As an aside, I consider honey somewhat gross, given that it is effectively insect vomit, and I have never thought it tastes any better than table sugar or maple syrup. But that's just me. I realize that a lot of people like it.)

Last edited by Dilettante; 12-06-2016 at 08:33 AM.
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#12 Old 12-22-2016, 07:18 PM
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Is Agave processed?

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#13 Old 12-22-2016, 07:53 PM
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Is Agave processed?

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Agave sweetener is produced by harvesting agave nectar, heating the nectar (which breaks down its polysaccharides into simple sugars), and then filtering and concentrating it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agave_nectar
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Specific recommendations for a healthy diet include: eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains; cutting down on salt, sugar and fats. It is also advisable to choose unsaturated fats, instead of saturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids."
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http://www.who.int/topics/diet/en/
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