A Lotus Grows in Brooklyn

Why Vegans Don’t Eat Honey
July 9, 2009, 12:45 pm
Filed under: Green Links, Vegan | Tags: , , ,


I don’t want to start a whole new argument over veganism here (or do I?) but I just found a fascinating Q&A from last year on the New York Times blog. It’s with Rynn Berry, the author of “The Vegan Guide to New York City.” on the topic of the vegan lifestyle in NYC. He’s pretty militant, and has strong opinions about the history and future of human eating behavior. Read the whole Q&A here. (You’ll have to click further links to see the 2nd and 3rd parts.)

One thing I love is that he sets forth the best answer to why most vegans don’t eat honey. Even people who are understanding of giving up meat, eggs, and dairy often look at me funny when I say vegans also eschew honey. But check this out! (Sorry so long, but it’s all good.)


Q: Can you address why some vegans do not eat honey? I understand the thoughts behind not eating eggs and dairy, but have not heard anything convincing about the ill-effects of honey production.

honey580A: Vegans eschew honey because they regard it as an unethical food. In the first place, honey is the work product of the bee, intended to nourish their offspring. Beekeepers snatch honey from the hive and substitute sugar water, depriving the young of their proper nourishment. Stealing honey is not only unconscionable — it is a violation of the precepts of asteya (non-stealing) and ahimsa (non-violence) that are promulgated by the oldest religions on the planet, Buddhism and Jainism, that promote non-violence and non-violent eating.

Aesthetically, honey is an unlovely food. Honey is nectar exuded by flowers, swallowed by bees then regurgitated by them. Ethical vegans accurately refer to honey as “bee spit,” or “bee vomit.”

At the core of every beehive is the queen bee—the only bee capable of laying eggs. While worker bees live only for a few months, queens live as long as several years.

beehive_largeHowever, in commercial beekeeping, the same remorseless practices associated with factory farming are applied to bees. The queens are killed every six months, and replaced by virgin queens that are mass-produced by specialist breeders. These virgin queens are artificially inseminated by sperm collected from crushed males. The queen has her wings cut off –to prevent her from swarming, which is the natural reproductive activity of the colony.

To increase crop yields, beekeepers often transport colonies to areas where crops are in flower, so that bees may artificially pollinate them. The unintended consequence of this is that it drives out the native pollinators, such as birds, bats, moths, butterflies, and other winged creatures. This creates a monoculture of pollinators that is subject to disease and dearth. Hence the recent alarming decline in honeybee populations in the U.S.


Of course, it should be said that there are self-respecting vegans who do eat honey. For instance, last month the guy behind the counter at One Lucky Duck, the store connected with fancy raw and vegan restaurant Pure Food and Wine, gave my friend and I a whole rundown on why they feel okay using honey in their products. Discuss amongst yourselves!

For more on this question, including the other side of the story, you should also read this from Slate: The Great Vegan Honey Debate: Is honey the dairy of the insect world?


6 Comments so far
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Rynn Berry, as an ethical vegan, accurately refers to honey as “bee spit,” or “bee vomit.” And I will accurately refer to Rynn Berry as a “vaginal ejection”.

Comment by Andy Lin

Nice, Andy. Also, I refuse to believe those cute little honey bears are actually evil marketing ploys designed to help nefarious capitalists turn a profit at the expense of poor little baby bees. And all this talk about sacrifical queens, virgins, and nectar vomit… Next thing you’ll start talking smack about Winnie the Pooh. Stop ruining my childhood, Caroyln. 🙂

Comment by Kari

You actively support movie film made possible by the murder of innocent life. How can we take anything you say seriously anymore?

Comment by pig with a death wish

Would a vegan go see Bee Movie?

Comment by Internet Rioter

A.L.: That’s gross. Though accurate, it’s true.

K: And Christopher Robin was gay.

PWADW: I’m assuming you’re joking. But either way, I think that existing in the modern world makes it difficult to avoid causing any harm to animals or the environment. All we can do is try to live consciously and make good choices about our impact on the world around us. That said, this news-to-me about gelatin in film stock makes me a bigger supporter of digital film.

I.R.: Good question! I like it. But I don’t know, were any bees harmed in the making of that film? Or just Jerry Seinfeld’s career?

Comment by Carrie M

[…] Why Vegans Don’t Eat Honey […]

Pingback by Bees, Honey, Vegans and Tim Gier « Little Vegan Steps

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