Is Honey Vegan Friendly? (Depends On Who You Ask)

big jar of honey

A very common question people ask is honey vegan friendly? Can vegans eat honey? The answer is definitely no, because it is considered an animal product and any product that results from the exploitation of animals is not vegan.

But depending on who you ask, you might get a mix of different answers.

Some vegans are adamantly against it, while others (like myself) are a bit more nonchalant or without any strong opinions and seems that they can go either way.

What is honey?

Honey is basically stored energy for the bees.

The honey are produced in the hives during the active summer months, they are stored in the cells of the beehive for the cold and harsh winter months when alternative food sources aren’t available.

The honey stored in the beehive is the sole source of energy and nutrition for the entire hive of bees, and there is on average around 25lbs (11kg) of honey stored in one hive.

To make one pound of honey, the bees would have to visit around 2 million flowers, or fly the distance of over 50,000 miles!

How Is Honey Made? The Process Of Pollination

 bee pollinating flower

Bees are constantly working hard. A bee would visit over 1000 flowers to obtain enough nectar to fill it’s honey stomach, where it will then be mixed with an enzyme to break down the nectar into honey.

Once they get back to the bee hive, they regurgitate the stuff, which is then further processed by other bees (the other bees chew and regurgitate it some more.) 

The nectar substance is very high in water content at first, so to complete the honey making process the bees would fan their wings to dry out and thicken the bee vomit honey. 

The bees in a hive work together collectively to make sure there’s enough food for everyone in the hive.

Did you know that a single honey bee would only produce about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in it’s entire lifetime? Probably a lot less than most people would expect.

There are thousands of different species of bees, but only 7 of them actually make honey as we know it. Some species like bumble bees for example, do make honey, but in very small quantities.

So when you add a teaspoon of honey to your tea, toast or whatever, just keep in mind that’s the entire life work of a dozen bees. The collection of honey is taking away an entire colony of bees’ food source they worked so hard for.

Imagine if you prepared for a long hard winter by stocking up your house with months worth of food for yourself and your families, then somebody just comes in and takes it all away.

Why Is It Not Vegan?

It seems that the exploitation of bees tend to be overlooked by a lot of people because they might not even realize that bees are animals, and the collection of honey is part of the animal industry. This sometimes include animal testing to determine whether it is safe or not for human use.

Animal Testing Cruelty

The fact that honey is tested on animals is more than enough to have me convinced that it isn’t vegan. In fact, if you look deeper into how they do the testings, the unethical practices may surprise you.

For example, animals may be surgically wounded to test the healing effects of honey on wounds, dissected to test how honey affects bone mass and metabolism, and reproductive organ removal for hormonal profile testing.

These testings are done on not only mice and rats, but rabbits, cattle, goats, horses… and believe it or not, even feral dogs and cats have been known to be subjected to testing.

Bees Aren’t Cute?

face of a bee

It seems like to most people it would be easier to convince them to take actions to reduce harm done to creatures they find cute and cuddly such as pandas for example, but the same cannot be said about insects like bees. Bees are the opposite of round, soft and cuddly, most people would wanna escape the room in panic mode the second they realize there’s a bee inside buzzing around.

When I first went vegan, I didn’t know whether to care whether or not honey is vegan. This was because I thought bees and other insects couldn’t feel pain due to lacking nociceptors, which carries the feelings of pain.

I still don’t know for sure 100% whether insects can feel pain or not, but the fact that I now know honey goes through heinous animal testing is important enough for me to give it up for good.

Better Ways To Sweeten Your Foods

There is very little nutritional benefits to honey anyway, and nobody needs it. Some people claim honey contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals such as niacin, calcium, copper, iron and a few others… but all of which can be made up for in other vegan alternative sources. Therefore honey has absolutely no place in a vegan plant-based lifestyle.

Vegan Honey Alternatives

Honey is basically liquid sugar, and alternatives are abundant and easily found in every corner. Here are a few vegan alternatives I would suggest you replace honey with:

1. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is made from a sap that comes out of red and black maple trees. Just before the winter these trees store starch in their roots and trunks, and then the starch is converted into sugar via sap comes the spring time. You can find a strong and rich earthy flavor that’s similar to honey. It’s perfect to replace honey with maple syrup in your baking recipes, cup of tea, or oatmeal.

2. Coconut Nectar

Some consider this a super healthy food, with a low-glycemic index and with high amounts of amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It is made from the sweet sap that comes out of coconut palms. It is rather sweet and delicious but it doesn’t taste like coconuts at all, when you add it to your foods it will have a neutral quality to it and will not affect the taste of your foods.

3. Date Paste

I have mentioned previously in a recipe article about how dates are an excellent natural sweetener, and it can also replace honey. Dates can be stored without refrigeration, making it very easy and convenient to take it along travels for snacking and other things.

They are available almost anywhere, although they tend to be sold pitted and dried in most stores, so you might want to soak them for a bit before using. You can make a date paste by simply throwing a handful into a blender with some hot water, then blend it until it’s at the desired smoothness. The taste is a bit similar to caramel.

4. Brown Rice Syrup

Also known as rice malt, it is made with cooked brown rice that has been exposed to enzymes that broke down the starches into sugars. It is a thick brown syrup that doesn’t taste like brown rice at all.

Importance Of Bees vs Importance Of Humans

Although you might not enjoy the presence of bees when they fly into your house during the summer, they are quite an important part of the ecosystem and directly help produce the foods we eat.

Many crops grown for food (including fruits and vegetables like blueberries, cherries, potatoes, onions, broccoli, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, nuts and seeds…etc) require pollination by bees.

Even the hay that feeds livestock is pollinated by bees! So I’m sure you can see their connection to everything and their importance to the planet.

 colony of bees working

In fact, bees are easily the most important insects to humans. It has been said they are responsible for 1/3 of the global crop production via pollination. Without bees, humans just wouldn’t have that many foods to eat.

If you took away all the bees on the planet, many things would fall apart and the ecosystem would suffer greatly. The opposite is said to be true for humans, we as a species are the more destructive and egotistical creatures on earth.

Humans tend to think they are mighty important just because they’ve evolved with bigger brains and can build and design great things like airplanes and i-phones. But those things benefit nobody except for other humans.

Animals weren’t made specifically for us to use and exploit in any way we please, we are not as special as we think we are.

The fact of the matter is if humans disappeared overnight, a huge spectrum of plant and animal species on earth would be dancing in celebration. No more cruel animal testing, no more factory farming, billions of animals are freed from torture and slavery, amazon rain forests can regrow and all the lives within it can flourish again, no more pollution of the air and water… the list of destructive things humans contribute to the planet goes on and on.

Final Thoughts

You can choose to be one of the humans that fight against animal oppression and exploitation by going vegan today, you have a choice in what goes into your body by choosing to spend your money on 100% vegan products.

Bees are our friends and we should not rob them of their energy food sources they worked all summer for, or subject any other animals to necessary suffering directly or indirectly via animal testings in the process.

Let me know in the comments below what you think of this article, and subscribe with your email if you’d like to be updated for future articles on other vegan topics. Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Is Honey Vegan Friendly? (Depends On Who You Ask)

  1. Derek Smith says:

    I’m not a vegan, but I hope my comments will still be seen as valid.
    I’m glad that your article contained the importance of bees for the ecosystem and our wellbeing. The problem is, whether we eat honey or not, the bees are slowly dying out and we cannot let that happen. We are also not entirely without blame here.
    I understand the point of view about exploitation, but I would like to present another viewpoint, if I may.
    I only buy honey from small beekeepers and have got to know some of them quite well. Believe me, they care more about their bees than they do about themselves. They go to great lengths to protect the hives during the winter. They work together with local fruit farmers and place the hive right in the middle of the orchard, reducing the bees’ travel time and improving the crop by around 30%.
    Thanks for an interesting and thought-provoking article.

    • Kent says:

      Hi Derek,
      I understand your viewpoint on buying honey from small beekeepers. Whenever something is commercialized on a large corporate scale, profits take precedent over everything else. This is why I have respect for non vegans who try to be conscious about animal welfare and where they get their animal products from. If one is to keep consuming animal products, then supporting your small local farms sounds like the best way to go at it.

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