While trying to plan a head for the weekend, I went to the online menu for California Pizza Kitchen because I know they have a section about menu options for vegans. I noticed that a lot of the options were removed because they have honey in them, such as their honey whole wheat crust, which has dehydrated honey. I told the server I wasn’t concerned about that and ordered my pizza (sans cheese) on that crust.
I know a lot of people who find out some vegans don’t eat honey find it completely absurd. Bees make honey whether or not we interfere, just as cows produce milk, so it’s common belief that we’re not doing any harm in taking their honey for our own personal use. They’re just insects right? They’re small and insignificant. They probably don’t even feel pain. (This is not my opinion, but I’m just saying that it is the common reaction to the matter of vegans and honey).
It’s been a while since I read up on the matter of vegans and honey, so I decided to refresh my memory with a little research. Why do some vegans choose to also eliminate honey from their diet?
Jo Stepaniak of vegsource.com explains that, “Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life.” PETA explains that “honeybees are victims of unnatural living conditions, genetic manipulation, and stressful transportation … Profiting from honey requires the manipulation and exploitation of the insects’ desire to live and protect their hive.” Apparently irresponsible beekeepers may starve bees burn hives to avoid “complex maintenance.” Studies have shown that bees do feel pain and that they are in fact “intelligent,” whatever that means for a bee.
And of course we know why bees are so important: a lot of our food (fruit, for example) relies on bees to develop. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is becoming a real problem, and since over 1/3 of the world’s crop production depends on bees, as well as bats and birds, we should all be concerned. In January of this year, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that bee populations had declined by as much as 96%. I know I personally used to see bees everywhere in the summer, and now I hardly see any (besides carpender bees). In the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a lot of dead bees on the ground.
What it boils down to is A) bees are harmed in a process that exploits nature, B) large-scale bee deaths are occurring and this affects our food production in a pretty major way, and C) there is no nutritional need for us to consume honey.
Here’s how I personally feel: I generally just use agave nectar, but I happen to have access to a local source of honey from which I know the beekeeper. He knows the imporance of bees, how they are linked to the environment and to humans, and he has a true concern for the CCD problem. I have a feeling if most of us put a little effort into it, we would find someone like this nearby. Ask local bee keepers questions. Ask to see their hives. Tell them any concerns you have and see how they reply. Judge for yourself whether you think they are just exploiting bees and nature for a profit, or whether they are actually working to save the bees from CCD.
Here in Alabama, the Jefferson County Beekeeper’s Association is actually trying to increase the number of beekeepers in order to rebuild colonies and increase the bee populations. So I will probably go on as usual with my honey consumption, which is really only about 1 jar a year, as long as it’s from a good source.