World Bee Day
By Alejandra Tolley and Aronya Waller
Many people have different takes on veganism. For some, it is maintaining a plant-based diet. Others include the attempt to remove all animal-based items while using only cruelty-free products. While they may aspire to live a life that is 100% vegan, it is nearly impossible. Their goal instead is to have a lifestyle that includes the least amount of exploitation. Similarly, when discussing honey, vegans have different views about its consumption. Some say that honey is vegan because bees are insects, and they’re not killed for honey. In contrast, others say that honey is not vegan due to the exploitation of bees. Those in the middle determine the type of honey used based on whether it’s commercially produced or naturally produced. Let us delve into the production of honey.
The Save the Bees movement was started to address the inhumane systemic structural practices imposed on bees, causing a dramatic decline in pollination and population. Our current agricultural system prioritizes profit over sustainability, and our endangered pollinators are facing the repercussions. There are many factors as to why bees have gone into a critical state, including global warming, air pollution, and nutrition deficit. According to Greenpeace USA, humans are the most responsible for 2: pesticides and habitat loss. It’s reported that these vital insects pollinate over 90% of our food supply, including fruits, nuts, and vegetables. But due to human interference, their pollination efficiency has been significantly damaged.
Local vs. Mass Produced Honey
Bees cannot generate the amount of honey that people consume. To keep up with the rate of consumption, bees suffer during every stage of commercial honey production. Commercial beekeepers use a variety of techniques to develop artificial colonies to produce the most amount of honey. They build wax molds instead of using natural hives to build larger colonies. Bees are artificially inseminated and die during the process. The beekeepers also clip the queen bee's wings to prevent swarming, which causes the worker bees to stay next to the hive.
Bees use honey as their food source during the winter. Instead of allowing the bees to save honey for winter, commercial beekeepers replace the honey with a sugar substitute such as corn syrup or sugar water. These sugar substitutes do not meet the bees’ nutritional needs, which leads to weakened immune systems and death by exhaustion or starvation. In addition, if it is too expensive, commercial beekeepers will kill colonies with cyanide at the end of autumn so that they do not have to keep the bees alive during winter.
Commercial beekeepers rent their colonies to large farms and groves that grow almonds, avocados, and many fruits and vegetables. The colonies are transported thousands of miles on 18-wheeler trucks. These trips typically take several days during the summer.
Naturally-produced beekeeping is known as the do-nothing approach to honey production. The focus is on the welfare of the bees instead of the amount of honey produced. During the spring, natural beekeepers can determine if there is excess honey leftover from the winter. This excess is the only time honey is taken.
During naturally-produced beekeeping, the bees manage themselves and their environment. The bees swarm according to their preferences. Many times, these colonies can forage on organic plots of land.
Natural beekeepers use locally-adapted bees versus shipping in the most docile bees from other regions. Local bees are more suited for the colony’s climate. In addition, the bees can fight off pests and diseases themselves to build a natural immune resistance.
Many scientists are advocating that we transition over to ecological farming—a farming practice that is more sustainable and less harmful to our food production and bees’ welfare. This type of farming reduces the number of chemicals and pesticides while also renewing a more feasible and productive process for our honey to be harvested. Reinstating our bee colonies means more ameliorate pollination and overall better crop health.
Ecological farming is nothing new! It’s reported by Greenpeace USA that ecological farming is and can be executed by the agriculture industry and successfully transform the way we practice bee farming.
- Bhutan has pioneered a sustainable farming practice by adopting a 100% organic farming policy
- Mexico banned GMO corn to preserve their native corn varieties.
- Eight European countries have banned genetically modified crops
- In India, scientist Vandana Shiva and a network of local farmers created an organic farming resistance to industrial agriculture over two decades.
Honey may be more affordable or accessible for some people. For example, in some smaller markets, the options are sugar, artificial sweeteners, honey, and pancake syrup. Please note that pancake syrup is different from maple syrup. However, if you are able or interested in trying natural plant-based sweeteners other than honey, fill your pot with these alternatives:
- Agave Nectar
- Barley Malt
- Coconut Nectar
- Dandelion Syrup
- Date Paste
- Fruit Syrup
- Maple Syrup
- Rice Syrup
- Sorghum Syrup
- Yacon Root Syrup
What is vegan honey?
There are many alternatives listed above. They come from fruit, plants, and greens. It is interesting to note that companies are now creating vegan honey. As more vegan honey products come onto the scene, the primary ingredient is either apples or dandelions. You may want to compare the ingredients and cost with apple syrup, apple paste, and dandelion syrup before purchasing.
CALL TO ACTION
Support and follow these incredible orgs that are working to help save the bees!
- Elephant and Bees Project - @elephantsandbees_ste
- Bee Raw - @beerawhoney
- The Bee Conservancy - @the_bee_conservancy
- Pollinator Partnership Canada - @pollinatorpartnership
- Bees for Development - @beesfordevelopment
Save The Bees - Greenpeace USA https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/sustainable-agriculture/save-the-bees/
What is Ecological Farming and How Can It Save Honey Bees? https://247wallst.com/special-report/2019/08/14/what-is-ecological-farming-and-how-can-it-save-honey-bees/
Eating Honey is Bad for Bees - The Ecologist https://theecologist.org/2019/aug/21/eating-honey-bad-bees
Eating honey is more complicated than you might think https://www.fastcompany.com/90457908/eating-honey-is-more-complicated-than-you-might-think
Is Honey Vegan? It’s Not As Sweet As You Think https://plantbasednews.org/opinion/misconception-honey-cruel/
Need A Honey Substitute? These 10 Vegan Options Are Truly Buzz-Worthy (Wink) https://www.peacefuldumpling.com/honey-substitute
Should Vegans Eat Honey? https://tenderly.medium.com/should-vegans-eat-honey-f05887040cb9
The product of forced labour?https://cdn.friendsoftheearth.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/Ethical%20consumers%20guide%20to%20honey.pdf
What is Ethical Honey and How Can I Find It?https://greenopedia.com/ethical-honey/