Few foods raise the ire of vegans more than honey, so when I was assigned to cover it and its co-product beeswax for Treehugger last month, I was overjoyed. Up until that point, the only answer I gave when asked, "Why don't vegans eat honey?" seemed completely obvious to me:
Bees are animals. Small animals, yes, but animals nonetheless.
Vegans who oppose all forms of animal exploitation, however, find themselves in a sticky situation. Millions of bees are trucked to California each year to pollinate almonds and avocados. It is from those bees that commercial honey and beeswax are harvested. To avoid hypocrisy, it seems that the most stringent of vegans would have to shun those literally plant-based foods, too.
For ethical but "practical and possible" vegans like me, I recognize that if bees were removed from the global food system, up to 30% of food would disappear. Demanding that people who give up large animal agriculture also follow these extensive, logical but very impractical conclusions about small animal agriculture seems not just onerous but self-defeating.
To address climate change, we need more people to eat fewer animal products, and in-fighting within the vegan community about foods like honey often dissuades otherwise interested parties from joining. Vegans and the world overall would benefit from welcoming the spirit and not the law in this particular case.
What foods can I investigate for you? Send me a note!