The Thing About Honey
Does Cruelty-Free Honey Exist?
The thing about honey is that it’s not always produced ethically.
We send a strong message with where we spend our money—and where we don’t.
Many vegans hotly debate whether eating honey is an ethical practice. Even though we don’t consume the insects themselves, honey is still a bee’s primary source of food and energy, and undeniably an animal product.
The key lesson to take away from veganism is its strong stance against animal cruelty and animal exploitation. And ethical honey can be difficult to find.
Did you know that one bee has to visit around 1,500 flowers to collect enough nectar to fill its “honey stomach.” This is a second reservoir where special enzymes turn nectar into honey. It’s a painstaking process, which, from a vegan perspective, bees perform for other bees in order to survive the winter.
But humans harvest these winter stores.
In addition to ethical concerns, we must consider the environmental impact. Like butterflies and hummingbirds, bees are the primary pollinators for countless species in the plant kingdom. Pesticide use in industrial agriculture has been shown to harm bees and lead to colony collapse disorder, threatening the plant populations we rely on for food.
Some vegans abstain entirely from eating honey. Many conventional production practices are decidedly unethical. These include “hive burning,” clipping the wings of the queen bee to bind her to the hive, and replacing honey with high fructose corn syrup.
Is there such a thing as ethical honey consumption, then? Can it ever be cruelty-free?
Some people think so—under certain conditions.
Ethical beekeeping exists, and not all honey is cruelly produced. Some beekeepers (and hopefully more in the future) consistently put their bees’ and the environment’s health and well-being before profit.
The most humane and sustainable option is to source from organic local farms. Your choice as a consumer can ultimately incentivize producers to cultivate honey more ethically.
Wherever we stand in the honey debate, there are plenty of deliciously sweet, bee-friendly alternatives out there like agave, coconut nectar, maple syrup, and date syrup, too.
It is up to us as consumers to mindfully choose whether we eat honey or not—and if we do, how we source and select it.
Knowing all this, where do you stand? How will you vote with your dollar?
Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments!
Want to know more about the products you love (and where they come from)? Sign up for the Producers Market newsletter here.