The conversation surrounding honey and vegans can be a controversial one. The egg and dairy industries are somewhat easier to understand for most people, and the sight of a suffering calf or hundreds of chicks being discarded is pretty gruesome. However, when it comes to honey, some vegans will still enjoy its natural sweetness. 

But why isn’t honey considered vegan? Most people think honey is just a byproduct that’s painlessly removed from their hives, but that’s not exactly correct. 

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Bees Eat Honey 

Bees don’t just make honey for fun. The thick nectar is made for the thousands of bees buzzing inside the hive. A single bee will produce 1/12 teaspoon of honey in their lifetime. If you multiply that by the number of bees actively creating honey in a hive, it adds up quickly. Bees do produce a surplus of honey but bee farming doesn’t always leave enough honey for the bees to live off of. In this all too common case, the bees are given a sugar-water solution instead of the honey they worked for. 

Sugar water and honey are entirely different. It doesn’t have the nutrients, antibiotics, and antioxidants that bees need to eat to protect them from disease. Some think colony collapse disorder may be linked to feeding bee hives this over-simplified and nutrient-void replacement. 

Bees Get Culled 

Bees are not handled with the care and respect we’d like to think they are. The nature of any sort of animal farming is that when profits are involved, the ones producing the product tend to get mistreated. 

When a bee hive’s honey is harvested before winter, farmers will cull the hive instead of feeding it throughout the cold months. It keeps their costs down for them and means they don’t need to be taking care of the hives they just spent months profiting off of. Cyanide gas is often done to do this.  

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Lots of other bees die along the way from being handled roughly and the queen’s wings are clipped so she can’t fly away and bring the entire colony with her. 

Remember, bees are incredibly smart and sophisticated. Research shows they can think abstract thoughts, communicate with one another in intricate ways, and generally, are pretty awesome creatures. However, their intellect shouldn’t be the basis for the argument of why they deserve to be treated with respect. 

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Humans Don’t Appreciate Honey Enough 

It’s not like some people don’t love honey. But it’s nearly impossible for a person to need and require honey as much as the bees do. We have other food sources that keep us strong and healthy while bee’s options are incredibly limited. We have the responsibility to look at our actions critically and decide, “Is this worth it?” We rely on bees for one-third of the food we consume and 80 percent of the world’s flowers. Eating honey, particularly commercially harvested honey, is harming rather than helping the bee populations that keep our planet alive. With so many vegan honey alternatives available, is putting bees at risk worth consuming honey? 

How To Help the Bees 

Here are a few things you can do to support your local bee populations: 

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Sign this petition and ask the United States to get serious about protecting the bees and start creating bee stops!

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