It’s a hotly debated issue in the vegan community, with many people finding themselves unable to decide whether or not it’s okay to eat honey while following a vegan lifestyle – which is built on the foundation of not consuming animal products.
We thought we’d take a look at both sides of the argument to see if we could settle the score at all.
How Is Honey Made?
Bees make honey by collecting nectar, which is a sugary liquid, from flowers. They bring this nectar back to the hive, where they ingest it to break it down into simple sugars to make a watery honey. This is then stored inside the honeycomb, and the bees use their wings to fan the liquid until it becomes thick and golden. Beekeepers then collect this honey from the honeycomb.
Why Do Some Vegans Not Eat Honey?
The Vegan Society states that the definition of veganism “seeks to exclude not just cruelty, but exploitation”, and fundamentally honey is made by bees for bees… and not for humans.
Although their main food source is actually nectar, during the winter months when this become scarce, bees will eat the nectar they’ve converted into honey and sealed up in honeycomb.
Therefore, when beekeepers collect this honey for human consumption, they are depriving bees of their own food supply.
The Vegan Society also argues that when beekeepers specifically breed of honey bees to increase productivity, they put an already endangered species at further risk as selective breeding narrows the population gene pool, increasing susceptibility to disease. Plus, the mass breeding of honey bees has a detrimental effect on other nectar-foraging insects, for example the native bumblebee.
Why Do Some Vegans Eat Honey?
Many vegans choose to continue to eat honey, especially from local bee farms where they can be more confident of the standards of animal welfare maintained by smaller businesses. Often, if a beekeeper removes a crop of honey from the hive for their own consumption, they will compensate the bees by providing them with sugar to feed from instead.
In this way, although it may not be the ideal source of energy originally intended for the bees, they won’t be left deprived or starved. Beekeepers can be respectful and conscientious about how much honey they harvest from a hive too, by making sure they never take more than is necessary for the colony to survive on.
So, if the bees are kept to a good standard, allowed to fly about freely, and left enough honey or sugar substitute to survive on, some people would say that there’s no harm done by enjoying some of the fruits of their labour too.
In fact, they might also argue that it’s not much different to eating the fruits and vegetables that wouldn’t have been able to grow without the hard work of bees – as they’re responsible for pollinating hundreds of plants and crops. To give you an idea: apples, asparagus, blueberries, cauliflower, cucumber, garlic, lettuce, pears, strawberries, sweet potatoes, and watermelon all benefit from bee pollination – food for thought, huh.
What Vegan Alternatives Can I Have Instead Of Honey?
Maybe you’ve decided that you’re definitely against eating honey as a vegan, or maybe you’re still on the fence and just want other options to consider. Whatever your reasons are, we’re on hand with plenty of tasty substitutes that perhaps won’t make your breakfast so controversial.
A classic all-natural alternative to honey that’s formed from the sap of maple trees and is completely free from sweeteners. Our syrup has been specifically harvested so that it’s free of artificial preservatives too.
This delicious syrup is another all-natural choice – sourced from the tequila plant and renowned for its sweet taste, it’s perfect for baking or drizzling on your yoghurts and porridge.
Our completely guilt-free syrup alternative has zero sugar and zero fat, meaning you can transform your snacks and breakfasts into delicious treats without having to worry about extra calories. Plus, it’s available in 12 different amazing flavours, from Butterscotch to Apple & Cinnamon, meaning you can mix things up.
Okay, so not that similar to honey – but still great on toast, pancakes, or swirled into porridge!