START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
570,904 people care about Real Food

Honey Creates Some Sticky Ethical Questions for Vegans and Locavores

Honey Creates Some Sticky Ethical Questions for Vegans and Locavores

Bees make honey for us, and don’t mind when we collect it from them. Right?

Well, not so much.

One hitch in that argument is that some bees get injured and some die when beekeepers disrupt the hive by removing the honeycomb. Bees who try to protect the hive by stinging the beekeeper die — they only get one sting in their lives.

Those hives are the lucky ones. Fate is even less kind to hives that are rented out to pollinate about 100 different food crops for consumption by humans and livestock, including alfalfa, almonds, avocados, broccoli, canola, cherries, clover, cucumbers, lettuce, peaches, pears, plums, sunflowers and tomatoes. The problem for the bees is that they are trucked in 18-wheelers over long distances from crop to crop, with only high-fructose corn syrup to eat along the way. They may spend half the year traveling that way. They don’t like that.

Why should we care if bees get injured or treated miserably — they’re just insects, they don’t feel anything. Right?

Well, again, not so much. “Bees have a central nervous system, just like humans and other animals, which allows them to feel pain.”

I’m going to speculate here that starving causes pain, and thanks to beekeepers, some entire hives starve to death during the winter. A beekeeper explains why:

Normally, a certain percentage of hives die each year. We expect a 20% loss over winter. Sometimes there is no loss, and sometimes more than 20%. I have around 40 hives going into winter, and I know that 10 are pretty small and light and will probably not make it. It’s not the cold. Bees can survive cold weather just fine. It is because they never built up to be a full size hive before winter arrived; they didn’t store up enough food for winter.

What is the food the bees don’t have enough of? It’s the honey the beekeepers stole from the hives. It is illegal to let cats or dogs starve to death, but because of the widespread mistaken belief that bees don’t suffer from pain, beekeepers get away with starving bees year after year.

Another beekeeper argues that farmers need to change their ways: “Trouble is many American beekeepers take away a significant amount of honey. They rob the honey when bees need it the most, during the fall and winter when there are no flowers bearing nectar, the basis of honey.” This doesn’t have to happen. In the 1800′s beekeepers waited until spring, when nectar was available, to remove “surplus” honey from the hives.

Some ethical vegans, i.e. those who abstain from animal by-products out of compassion and concern for the animals, will eat honey. However, it is an animal product and so should obviously be on the no-no list. Maybe their rationale is based on the misconception that bees don’t suffer for us to have honey.

The reality is that honey does not pass the test for ethical vegans, who do not eat or otherwise use animals or their products. I haven’t met a vegan who would wear silk, which is made by worms — ethically, what’s the difference between bees and worms that confers more protection for the worms?

Locavores are another group that thinks seriously and ethically about their diets. The locavore argument about honey is that if it is local, it is on the menu; if it is from far away, don’t touch it. They are motivated by issues like the health benefits for humans of eating local honey and the impact on the environment of importing honey over long distances.

A summary of one locavore beekeeper’s arguments in favor of local honey, from Culinate.com:

  • Fresh, locally produced raw honey has unique flavors.
  • Buying local honey supports the beekeeping industry, an integral part of agriculture currently facing a host of challenges.
  • If you don’t know where your honey is coming from, chances are it’s imported.
  • Buying local honey is better for the environment.

Fortunately for vegans there are lots of plant-based alternatives to honey, like agave nectar. For locavores who don’t know where to get locally-sourced honey, a farmer’s market is a good place to start.

What do you think? Let us know below!

 

Related Stories:

Why Are Bees Making Blue Honey?

Parasite Drives Honey Bees to Doomed Zombie Flight?

Ask the Beekeeper: Where Have All the Honeybees Gone?

 

Read more: , , , ,

Photo credit: iStockphoto

quick poll

vote now!

Loading poll...

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

186 comments

+ add your own
2:36PM PST on Feb 25, 2014

Spoken like a true misanthrope, right Colin W? Most of the world will continue to enjoy our honey and fight against the use of pesticides a la Monsanto which is a large corporation that believes in profits over health.

If you wish to be vegan, feel free and don't eat honey or any other animal product. However, if all you can do is put down anyone who doesn't see things yourvegan all or nothing everything in black and white way, then what you say is akin to a temper tantrum because you fail to see that local beekeepers are not corporate clones. But anything to push an agenda.

Making sweeping generalizations about humanity being loathsome and 'greedy' because we happen to enjoy honey from ethical organic beekeepers is not going to make any converts. Piper Hoffman is vegan and is dead set against anyone on the planet eating honey so her article is biased against the consumption of honey. Certainly avoid the large multinational corporate interests and go for local honey as local organic beekeepers are not like huge corporations that do anything to make extra profit. Pass the honey for my herbal home made Peppermint tea. Organic honey, local honey.

5:38AM PDT on Aug 8, 2013

*sigh*
Colin says: "The point being: DON'T EAT HONEY BECAUSE IT'S HARMFUL TO THE BEES."

Response: Eating honey is neither harmful to the bees nor to humans. Your statement is simply false... as pointed out time and time again... and again... and again. Pointed out in this forum and 10,000 other forums that, for whatever reason, folks seem incapable of doing very basic research. Or just talking to your average beekeeper.

1:50AM PDT on Aug 7, 2013

Colin, this is the first logical comment you've made..........."I couldn't have said it better myself.".........in other words, you can't say anything better than anyone, even the most illogical writer here. Eating honey obtained from local bees without harming the bees in any way shouldn't be an issue for anyone with a working brain.

Of course there is a huge problem with keeping colonies healthy, and that is something we're still unsure of as to cause. It's not because we remove the honey from their hives. If that were the case, there would have been colony collapses centuries ago since honey has been harvested by not just humans, but many species, including bears, badgers and other mammals for as long as they've existed.

7:54AM PDT on Aug 6, 2013

Yes, let's all debate for another few years whether a small detail should let us eat more local honey or something else. Let's all miss the point completely.

The point being: DON'T EAT HONEY BECAUSE IT'S HARMFUL TO THE BEES.

Why don't we try protecting the bees from dying off in all cases WITHOUT taking any honey from them? Why? Because humans are selfish, greedy, evil MFers who do nothing but destroy everything we come into contact with, you say?

I couldn't have said it better myself.

9:48PM PDT on Jul 21, 2013

Wished that these so called experts would get it right... 2011 Stop eating honey http://www.care2.com/greenliving/3-reasons-to-stop-eating-honey.html - 2012 Eat honey http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-health-benefits-of-honey.html - Now in 2013 it's: "Should you or shouldn't you eat honey..?"

5:36PM PDT on May 29, 2013

I love it when non-experts write articles on topics they don't understand. Then they makes some stuff up. Add a false analogy. And more. *sigh*

"What is the food the bees don’t have enough of? It’s the honey the beekeepers stole from the hives. It is illegal to let cats or dogs starve to death, but because of the widespread mistaken belief that bees don’t suffer from pain, beekeepers get away with starving bees year after year."

You ask a question, but you attempt to answer it yourself. I.e., Why not ask a beekeeper instead of just... making stuff up? Let's look back at the comment...
"""
10 are pretty small and light and will probably not make it. It’s not the cold. Bees can survive cold weather just fine. It is because they never built up to be a full size hive before winter arrived; they didn’t store up enough food for winter.
"""

10 of those 40 hives were (a) small and light, and (b) didn't store enough food for winter.

Managed hives, see a loss of about 15% to 20% during the winter. Wild bees? 60% to 85% loss. Just giving some context here.

Those small and light hives with little food stored are *weak* hives. They are not going to make it through the winter. Some might limp through if the beekeeper supplements their feed, but often they just don't. Even if you give them gallons of honey.

Something a lot of folks don't understand. Of all the hives a beekeeper has, dependent on location, the majority don't produce enough excess

3:53PM PDT on May 14, 2013

noted

10:48AM PDT on May 2, 2013

Sigh

Things seems to be getting worse for bees; http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50865/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=10659

9:15AM PDT on May 1, 2013

thanks for sharing

2:07PM PDT on Apr 15, 2013

Wildlife and forest destruction to make way for monocrop plantations

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

well i guess thats what they are up there for to discover something......lets hope they do all their…

The proper term for this mistreatment, is Terrorism!

Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!
ads keep care2 free

more from causes

Animal Welfare

Causes Canada

Causes UK

Children

Civil Rights

Education

Endangered Wildlife

Environment & Wildlife

Global Development

Global Warming

Health Policy

Human Rights

LGBT rights

Politics

Real Food

Trailblazers For Good

Women's Rights




Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.