What's the straight dope on honey from a vegan standpoint?

I know vegans don’t eat honey, but what is the truth behind honey production? Does it negatively impact the bees? I really don’t know anything about the process. What’s the rationale for avoiding it?

To get honey you have to fuck up the hive. In a natural environment you destroy it; in a commercial hive you have reusable shelves that you can return to the hive, but it’s still disruptive.

Plus, it’s bee sick.

The explanation I once heard from one individual vegan (so not, not the official explanation - if there is an official vegan body at all, instead of a bunch of individuals deciding how far to take it) was that taking the honey away the bees had gathered to get over the winter and replacing it with sugar water to provide similar energy was exploiting the bees labour*.

Similar, she said that wearing wool was exploiting the sheep.**

I don’t agree with that perspective, which is why I’m vegetarian.

  • I had just worked for a year at an organic farm with bee hives, so I knew how bee farmers treat their bees.

** This doesn’t adress, similar to cows, the problem that todays sheep races often have been bred for lot of wool so long that they suffer if they aren’t sheared, just like modern turbo-cows suffer if not molken when their udder is full.

My understanding is that many vegans do eat honey. Their rationale is that because so many of the plants they eat are the product of pollination by bees, there isn’t really a principled way to avoid living off bee labor.

I don’t touch it, although I love it, but that’s only partly due to being vegan: other reasons are that there’s a severe crisis going on with bees right now, and I think that letting nature alone is the best strategy rather than continuing with commercial beekeeping; and that I’m not keen on food made from insects.
If a vegan ate honey I certainly wouldn’t think them less of a vegan, compared with eating pig — or long pig. Everyone makes their own adjustments: I wear leather marschstiefel instead of plastic shoes since I don’t think leather matters after 50 years compared to having an animal die for present leather production. Similarly few vegans ever worry about 100 year old leather bound books. Honey certainly comes from animals, but I doubt they suffer much to produce it.

Not all vegans have an animal rights rationale. My daughter’s a vegan, and she jokes “I’ll abuse an animal.” She’s a vegan for dietary and nutrition reasons.

Just asked her why no honey and she says… “Some vegans still eat it. You have to decide for yourself on that one. Personally I just have no interest in eating bee vomit.”

She asks me to add that honey is used in most store brands of bread.

A guy I knew worked at a health food store and he told me that there were some vegans so extreme that they wouldn’t eat anything with yeast because “yeast is an organism.”


So’s wheat. And barley. And peas. And potatoes. Etcetera.

Either he was telling you stories or he was talking to some incredibly clueless vegans.

But the bees are already being exploited by the tyrannical queen!

I am sure it was the latter.

There are fruitarians out there, who will only eat foods that can be harvested without killing the plant, like nuts, fruits (in the botanical sense, so this includes stuff like squash and eggplants), and beans. I suppose they think of themselves as not eating entire organisms, although at that point, one really can’t breathe or swallow at all, because one will end up killing bacteria and fungi in the air.

Don’t know if its relevant or not, but I think it’s interesting to note that there are plenty of organisms eating us.

Like athlete’s foot. And yeast. (possibly arguably.) And many other microbes.

So personally – although I’ve never been tempted to eat athlete’s foot fungus or flesh-eating bacteria – where yeast is concerned, I don’t really have a problem eating it back. :wink:

Now imagine they’re like that, but also they have a problem with cooking food at all. (Though I will say that I encountered a raw food fruitarian stall in a market in London once and their little fruit-only cakes were delicious.)

brujaja: ewwwww.

I had a friend who only used vegan chapstick “in case bee parts got inside”.

On a similar note, is there a vegan consensus about silk?

The silkworm, which produces it, is utterly dependent on human interest in silk: If everybody stopped wearing silk and otherwise using the fiber, the silkworm would go extinct. I understand their desire to not profit from the existence of domesticated animals, but if nobody profited from the silkworm’s domestication there would cease to be silkworms and vegans would be responsible for an (admittedly minor) extinction event.

Anyone know if this is typical for commercial honey production? Bees produce way more honey than they need. They always did fine with what little I left over the winter. I only supplemented with sugar for a new hive or to medicate.

Vegans mostly avoid silk since it includes killing thousands of animals through heat. As to whether it is better to be extinct or to be boiled alive, I guess a thoughtful silkworm might agree with Sophocles, ‘The greatest of all boons is never to have been born’.

Then again I am sceptical of argument from utility: in school I was told that unless shooters preserved gamebirds, gamebirds would not exist. I later discovered there are an *awful * lot of wild pheasants on the Plains of Tartary…
Someone has evidently been producing silk without killing, in India.

From the same site it seems the boxer, Mr. Mike Tyson, has recently become a vegan.

I was told that some companies will do things to the queen bee’s body to stress her-basically, torture her-which in turn makes all the other bees produce honey faster, because that’s their knee-jerk response to a sick queen. I dunno if it’s true; it was just some kid at a health food store who told me that.
Another girl told me that they overproduce honey in order to keep themselves warm during the winter. So, if you give them just enough to survive, they will produce quickly because it’s cold and they want the warmth. Again, no idea if this is true or not. Never cared enough to look in to it. I mainly eat vegan, and I avoid honey from major companies, but other than that I don’t sweat the bees, or whatever some busybody wants to observe about the extent of my veganism. I’m pro-vegan, but anti-judgy-dickwad.

Does this mean he no longer wants to eat Lennox Lewis’s children?

That’s venturing into parody territory, like when Lisa Simpson meets the boy who’s a “Level 5 vegan - I don’t eat anything that casts a shadow”.