Using and consuming honey taken from bees is not vegan. All the latest research suggests that bees are sentient individuals whose lives matter to them. In keeping with the many other species whose lives and bodies are ‘farmed’ by humans, honey bees are artificially-bred agricultural animals.
I know you’ll sometimes read that it’s a ‘controversial’ subject. It’s not. The denial of nonhuman sentience and the disregarding of their interests are familiar tactics in a nonvegan world that values others only in terms of what humans can take from them by force and use to make money. Those with vested interests will always jump on this bandwagon so as to safeguard their profits and attempt to silence criticism.
While the 6th mass extinction proceeds unchecked, the related insect apocalypse is ringing yet another alarm bell in a biodiversity crisis accelerating as the planet’s human population grows. This crisis is increasingly exacerbated by unprecedented recent climate changes and other anthropogenic stressors such as land-use change, deforestation, agricultural intensification, and urbanisation, all of which are leading to widespread and irreversible habitat destruction and loss.
Recently I’ve come across many excellent articles that all say basically the same thing that’s been common knowledge for a long time: that using domesticated honey bees as a money making resource to produce honey intended for human consumption does no good for the victims, no good for the indigenous breeds, and no good for the environment in general.
I decided that it’s important to start to compile the best information into a single blog to be added to as further information is published, providing something to share when the subject is raised by those whose self interest blinds them to the facts. Please note that within many of the following links you’ll find even more sources and information.
Is Honey Vegan?
‘Avoiding honey or bee products is consistent with veganism as an ethical philosophy because a bee is an animal. It has nothing to do with perfection or personal purity. As vegans, we cannot ignore the ethical implications and environmental consequences of the bee husbandry industry. Doing so reduces our credibility as a serious movement trying to affect change.
Honey isn’t some magical ingredient no one can avoid. It’s an animal product that has been mass marketed and mass-manufactured for generations, and it’s been tested on animals. With so many vegan alternatives available, honey is not only exploitative; it’s unnecessary.’ https://www.yourdailyvegan.com/vegan-guides/is-honey-vegan/ https://www.yourdailyvegan.com/2016/03/if-you-eat-honey-read-this/
Myth: Beekeeping is needed to conserve pollinator populations.
Like dairy, honey consumption is a form of interspecific kleptoparasitism (literally “parasitism by theft”) of food made by/for another species that has been bred and manipulated specifically to be parasitized and exploited by people. https://www.truthordrought.com/beekeeping-for-conservation-myths
Bees in the Anthropocene: Four Thoughts
By Lee Hall, 15 March 2022 “Help our bees!” “Save our pollinators!” As long as we consider them ours, can we save them? Here are four thoughts about protecting bees for bees’ sake.
- Thought 1. Honey is bee food.
- Thought 2. As grocery shoppers, we’re enmeshed with the commercial honeybee trade.
- Thought 3. Bees create billions of dollars on humanity’s terms. Perhaps colony collapse is their Great Resignation.
- Thought 4. Beekeeping is not bee conservation. https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/03/15/bees-in-the-anthropocene-four-thoughts/
‘Honeybees are voracious’: is it time to put the brakes on the boom in beekeeping?
“Honeybees are not in decline; they are probably the most numerous bee on the planet,” says Andrew Whitehouse from insect conservation charity Buglife. While the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization reports there are more than 90m honeybee hives globally, many rarer native pollinators are in increasingly precarious positions.
“Our wild pollinators are in serious trouble. Across the board we are seeing a loss of the abundance and the diversity of pollinating insects,” adds Whitehouse. “We are seeing threatened species becoming more threatened and more rare. We are seeing some species that we know are really on the brink of extinction in the UK.
The Truth About Honey Bees
June 1, 2021 ‘Like chickens, pigs, cattle and other livestock, honey bees—not native to North America—are domesticated animals.’ https://www.nwf.org/Home/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2021/June-July/Gardening/Honey-Bees
Are vegans ‘bee’ing hypocrites?
February 15, 2021 ‘Is it hypocritical of vegans to boycott the honey industry but still consume plants pollinated by bees? ‘ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqTw7HLSv14
The Problem with Honey Bees
November 4 2020 “Beekeeping is for people; it’s not a conservation practice,” says Sheila Colla, an assistant professor and conservation biologist at Toronto’s York University, Canada. “People mistakenly think keeping honey bees, or helping honey bees, is somehow helping the native bees, which are at risk of extinction.”
High densities of honey bee colonies increase competition between native pollinators for forage, putting even more pressure on the wild species that are already in decline. Honey bees are extreme generalist foragers and monopolize floral resources, thus leading to exploitative competition—that is, where one species uses up a resource, not leaving enough to go around. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-problem-with-honey-bees/
Honeybees disrupt the structure and functionality of plant-pollinator networks
March 18, 2019 ‘Our results show that beekeeping reduces the diversity of wild pollinators and interaction links in the pollination networks. It disrupts their hierarchical structural organization causing the loss of interactions by generalist species, and also impairs pollination services by wild pollinators through reducing the reproductive success of those plant species highly visited by honeybees. ‘ https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-41271-5
Honey Bees Compete With Native Bees
February 25, 2019 ‘As our awareness grows about how ecosystems work, we’re having to think in different, uncomfortable ways as we challenge comfortable preconceptions. Honey bees are livestock, part of an agricultural machine and so are an agricultural issue; native bees are an ecological issue. https://www.monarchgard.com/thedeepmiddle/honey-bees-compete-with-native-bees
Keeping honeybees doesn’t save bees – or the environment
September 12, 2018 ‘The European honeybee (Apis mellifera) is a social bee species that has been domesticated for crop pollination and honey production. Beekeeping is often promoted as a way to conserve pollinators and, as a result, is on the rise across the UK. It’s great to see people backing the pollinator movement, but managing hives does nothing to protect our wild pollinators. It’s the equivalent of farming chickens to save wild birds.’ https://theconversation.com/keeping-honeybees-doesnt-save-bees-or-the-environment-102931
How the Honeybee Buzz Hurts Wild Bees
May 29, 2018 Contrary to public perception, die-offs in honeybee colonies are an agricultural problem, not a conservation issue. First domesticated about 9,000 years ago, honeybees are not all that different from livestock. https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/how-honeybee-buzz-hurts-wild-bees
Urban beekeeping is harming wild bees says Cambridge University
January 25, 2018 ‘Honeybees are artificially-bred agricultural animals similar to livestock such as pigs and cows. But this livestock can roam beyond any enclosures to disrupt local ecosystems through competition and disease.’ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2018/01/25/urban-beekeeping-harming-wild-bees-says-cambridge-university/
Bee products used by humans and/or sold commercially include:
- Bee Bread
- Royal Jelly
- Bee venom
- Bee hive air.