Is Honey Vegan?
Updated: Feb 11
Honey bees across the world are under threat due to the effects of the varroa mite, and nearly all-natural colonies have died out without the help of beekeepers. Looking into how we can help bees has to lead me to question how ethical honey actually is!
Is honey vegan?
This is a commonly asked question, from my research I can say strictly it's not. This is because beekeeping and harvesting honey is considered to exploit bees for their natural behaviours. The vegan society explains that people usually have the misconception that honey is vegan and that honey is made for us. The controversy comes from the fact that substitutes given to bees for their honey isn't a fair exchange and isn't as nutrient-rich.
I am someone who has always enjoyed honey and used it for various home remedies (such as lemon and honey tea for a cold). But this has made me think twice. This doesn't mean that you need to start cutting honey out of your diet all together, but it is certainly worth thinking about the effects of honey production on bees. Industrial-scale production of honey has lead to beekeeping practices that manipulate the natural behaviour of bees in order to maximise the honey yield and some people argue that the stress that is put on bees because of this is damaging to populations as a whole.
Honey is often used as a sugar substitute and sugar has its own environmental impacts to consider. "The cultivation and processing of sugar produce environmental impacts through the loss of natural habitats, intensive use of water, heavy use of agrochemicals, discharge and runoff of polluted effluent and air pollution". It can become difficult to decide what you are going to change and cut out of your daily life to be more environmentally conscious. When many people thought they were consciously swapping to honey due to the environmental impact of sugar, they may have been misled.
I will leave it up to you to decide how you feel about practices around honey. You can still be conscious when buying honey, make sure to look into the brands that are available to you and make your best judgments.
Here is some general guidance on how to pick the most ethical honey:
1) Is it produced naturally or with conservation methods.
2) Is it organic? Organic farming is generally better for the health of bees and if you can see that it is organically produced the bees are likely to be more protected against bad practices.
3) Is it fair trade? This ensures that farmers get fair prices for the honey they produce and will be an incentive for more ethical practices.
4) Buy local honey! This helps local bee farmers cover the costs of protecting bees.
Other ways that you can help bees:
Assisting with B-Lines. B-Lines aims to create and restore at least 150,000 hectares of flower-rich habitat across the UK. We need all the help we can get to restore natural flower-rich habitats. This includes farmers, landowners, businesses, everyone really.
Grow your own bee-friendly garden.
Look after tired bees by giving them a tiny hit of sugar. But never honey! A small sip of sugary water is all they need.
Finally, eat sustainable honey!
How do you feel about honey? Stay tuned for bee-related blogs!