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Confused about Insects (honey)

So, I've been vegan for a year. First, let me just say that I went vegetarian for the animals. I went vegan for health reasons.

Here is what I don't understand about being a vegan - why avoid honey? Insects and I get along ... sort of. As long as they stay outside, I leave them alone. But, once they come inside, they will die at my hand. I can't stand them. Especially roaches - those die a very quick death. Mosquitoes - I slap them. I don't slap any bees around because that just gets them agitated and they'll slap me, lol.

I'm in my last year of getting a masters in biology. So, I know that the nerve system of mammals and insects is VERY different. Namely, bugs don't have much of one. So, they don't feel a whole lot of pain. In fact, they lose a leg ... and keep on living with no problems. Unlike with mammals who feel physical pain and emotions, and would not casually walk off a chopped off leg, bugs work differently. 

So, because of my attitude towards bugs (yuck) and because of what I know about them as a biology student, I eat honey. I also only buy organic honey. Although the honeybee population in non-organic honey is declining, this is not true for organic honeybees.

I guess that's my question - why avoid honey? And if you DO avoid honey, do you also avoid killing all bugs? Roaches in the house? Mosquitoes on your arm? That sort of thing.

Just curious.  :)

I'm not vegan, but I do avoid silk....It kinda grosses me out.  The larvae are basically boiled to death in their cocoons before being unwrapped and discarded.  It's baby bug murder on a massive scale.

http://www.silkpaintinggallery.com/silk.htm

Right. I just don't think they are conscious enough or feel enough to notice. Worms are not like mammals, nor birds, nor fish. Their systems are very different. Especially, if they're still in cocoons. If boling them is mass murder, then so is boiling baby carrots.

Again, like I said, my biology degree interferes with my being able to feel much for something that I know is not very conscious, feels no emotions, and little to no pain - if it can even understand what pain is. I very much doubt if it can, personally.

But, again, I respect everyone's decision on this. I think it's very cool and very refreshing to have people like you guys around who genuinely care about life in all its forms. You guys rock.  :)

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Umm... this is kinda relevant here I guess...  I found this site awhile back and I am looking into fabric for one set of drapes.  http://www.ahimsapeacesilk.com/ 

Also, my mom bought me a recycled silk skirt (made from used saris) by women in India who were victims of domestic violence.  It's gorgeous, too, so that's a bonus.

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What a great site. Thanks for posting that link.

That's another thing which I look for when I spend my money - the ethics of the company and who they hire to do their work. I've often been in a position where my choice was to buy a silk skirt or a nylon/lycra/polyester skirt. The polyester one was made in China, probably in sweat shops, and not environmentally friendly. The silk skirt came from a very eco-conscious company, who practices fair practices in terms of their workers.

Obviously, in that instant, I chose the silk even though I guess it's not vegan.

There's just so many factors that go into my purchases. I can't just look at the vegan side because the practices of the company and the environmental impact matter to me just as much. That's my problem with vegan "leather" shoes as well. They don't decompose, leather does. On the other hand, both shoes contribute to pollution, i.e. leather in the way it's treated, vegan shoes in some of the products they use. Then there's the animal aspect of it. I don't want to see animal suffering and leather promotes that. Then there's my personal and not very deep side - my taste in shoes. The recycled, all natural, vegan ones ... yea, not so much my style, lol.

I wish we could have it humane on all levels - animal, environmental, people, etc.

In any given situation, I try to make the choice which satisfies most of those levels ethically. Most of the time that is the vegan choice, as a lot of vegan companies are also eco-friendly. But, some of the time - as in the case of my silk skirt, it's not the vegan choice that satisfies most of my ethical "requirements."

I'm an optimist, and I do hope that one day we'll have a world where we can buy anything we want, without even looking at labels or company practices because everything out there will be humane on all levels.

Hey, I can dream right?!  ;)

I totally just threadjacked my own thread.  ;D

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Pain is a mental event in response to a physiological experience.  We can't quantitatively verify whether an oyster has pain.  Studies have shown that an oyster will produce a pearl in response to discomfort.  I take from that the oyster has a mental response to a physiological experience and tries to sooth itself by secreting nacre.  Even if I wasn't vegan, I wouldn't eat a filter feeder.  But if we say I used to eat oysters, I wouldn't eat them now because I couldn't be sure oysters didn't feel pain.

I approach veganism a bit differently from most of the people here.  It's less about pain and more about letting animals live their lives in as natural a way as possible.  I see how hard it is for the critters out there, with things like development and pollution, and I try not to stress out individuals or populations by using them more than displacing them for crop land.

I think we feel the same way about pleather.  I have to use leather boots at work.  I don't think much about whether they decompose, because my shoes go to landfills where they'll sit - pleather or leather.  I'd like to wear more natural fiber shoes, but I tend to stick with trail running shoes and flip flops, so I'm still in the pleather realm.

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I have to admit that giving up honey was not high on my priority list when I went vegan. But the more I learned, the more I decided it was appropriate for me.  I went vegan for animal rights, so maybe I look at it a little differently.

First off, bees do seem to have feelings but if they don't, it could not be too different from eating  a lobster who cannot feel being boiled alive, can it? (and to those of you who would claim that- have you ever heard a lobster scream as it is boiled? They do scream- i kid you not. ) Honey bees are brainy little creatures. For instance, did you know that they can an elaborate communication system to tell other bees where a good source of food is-using body language, sorta like  Morse code, with a certain number of wiggles that indicate direction and distance from the hive? Did you know that identical bee larvae become either queens, workers (sterile females), or drones(males,whose sole purpose is to fertilize the queen's eggs and then die) depending on WHAT THEY ARE FED? Geneticists still haven't totally figured that one out. :o Bees are able to build structures that hold the greatest volume of honey in the smallest space possible. The best human brains could not engineer something better. I find it hard to believe that such a complicated brain would be incapable of feeling pain. And even if for some reason they didn't- Id refrain out of respect for their intelligence.

Honey bees are routinely killed to produce honey. As a few folks pointed out, there is the getting squished in the doors, but did you know that large sections of a colony are often exterminated in order to increase production? You see, when part of the hive dies...the rest of the bees go into working over-time to meet the needs of the hive. Aside from all that, what do you think the honey is being  made for? to feed the colony. So, what do they eat when we take away their honey? its supplemeted with corn syrup and sugar water- not really nutritionally sound. Some way to thank the bee? ::)

If bees are indeed animals- that is to say fall into the animal phylum...they are sentient and cannot ELECT to forfeit their honey for human consumption. If they were asked and able to communicate their choice, I kinda doubt they would agree to it. Therefore, i must assume they do not agree to it. I prefer to error on the side of life.

Humm, here is a link maybe it will answer some questions...including ones about health.
http://www.peta.org/mc/factsheet_display.asp?ID=122
http://www.vegetus.org/honey/honey.htm

Well, when it comes down to it...I don't want to eat bee vomit anyways...yes, honey is bee vomit...They regurgitate the nectar after processing it in their gut. They have this totally unique enzyme that creates it...

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I do know all of that about bees. And more. Biology major here, remember?  ;)

The problem is, if I make an exception for bees, I have to make one for the roaches, mosquitoes, ants, and spiders in my house. All of which I routinely kill with no remorse. I'd also have to repent for all those times I pinned bugs to boards in order to study them, all those times I looked at them under microscopes.

I'm not going to start catching roaches and releasing them outside.  So, if that's not going to happen, then I'm consistent in that I'll eat honey. A few dead bees just don't bother me at all.

But, as I said, I approach things from the scientific standpoint. What you call intelligence in bees is really instinct, hardwired into their genes. They can't actually think consciously as we do. Same with oysters. That "discomfort" they feel which prompts them to produce a pearl - it's out of their control. They don't consciously think "ouch, something is irritating me, let me make a pearl." It's all instinct, it's all biological and automatic.

I know mammals are much like humans in that they feel emotions, can actually strategize on some things, feel physical pain, etc.. I know fish are sensitive in terms of physical sensation. I know birds are as well. So, I don't eat them and don't use their products. But, when it comes to bees, worms, etc., .... the scientist in me just can't be ignored, lol.

By the way, just for the record, lobsters don't have vocal cords. So, it's physically impossible for them to scream. What you're hearing is vented steam from the layer of seawater between the lobster’s flesh and its carapace.

However, you're right in that they DO feel pain as they have that part of the brain responsible for feeling pain. Put them in boiling water, and they will try to remove the lid to get out. Hence why I don't eat them. :)

I know I said it already, but I just have to say it again - it's SO wonderful to see a group of people caring like you guys do about life. I hang around way too many scientists who have become a bit distant from the caring aspect, because they have to be objective. It's a wonderful change for me to be here. Hope you guys don't mind my scientist side too much. I tend to overthink and examine things A LOT, lol. So, it's always great for me to get input.

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uhhhh vegans dont use animal products, and honey is an animal product. how could there be ANY confusion? :-\

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Well, not all vegans avoid honey. Beyond me, I know several of my friends who have been vegans for years and enjoy local, organic honey. So, obviously there is SOME confusion. :)

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uhhhh vegans dont use animal products, and honey is an animal product. how could there be ANY confusion? :-\

I agree.  Apians use honey.

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Well, not all vegans avoid honey. Beyond me, I know several of my friends who have been vegans for years and enjoy local, organic honey. So, obviously there is SOME confusion. :)

well some vegetarians also eat fish and chicken....

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Well, not all vegans avoid honey. Beyond me, I know several of my friends who have been vegans for years and enjoy local, organic honey. So, obviously there is SOME confusion. :)

well some vegetarians also eat fish and chicken....

Oh, yeah.  How do I keep forgetting about this?

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Just my 2 cents.....I am not sure about commercial beekeepers but a small scale beekeeper will never take all of the honey off of a hive and feed the bees sugar syrup.  The bees need (depending on climate) about 50-100 pounds of honey to make it through a winter.  The beekeeper will always make sure to leave this on the hive for the bees because it is better for the bees to eat the honey they produce and feeding a sugar syrup over the winter costs money and time.  It is also a problem to feed the sugar syrup in the winter because the bees will have to break cluster to get to it and could freeze.  Bee populations in the wild are declining rapidly as well.  Beekeepers are responsible for building up colonies.  Bees are responsible for most of the pollination of fruit and vegetable crops.  If they were not around to pollinate the crops, yield and quality would suffer greatly.  A beekeeper would never destroy a hive of bees.  The only instance that I can think of where this would ever happen is if a hive was infected with a disease called American Foulbrood.  This is a nasty disease that you would not want spread to other colonies.  Local honey is in fact good for allergy sufferers.  It is made with nectar collected from local plants and contains small ammounts of pollen as well.  Overall beekeepers love bees and would go to great lengths to protect and take care of them.  (please don't call honey "bee puke" as it is not)

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well some vegetarians also eat fish and chicken....

Then they're not vegetarians.

I know the argument. I've had it with several vegans. I'm not a vegan because I eat honey. While I respect that viewpoint, I don't share it. Which is OK - we all come from different places in terms of our thinking. It's why I made this post - I was curious about the various personal reasons people have for eating or not eating honey. And I have really appreciated the opinions I've gotten.

It's all a learning process, after all. The more we know, the better informed our choices can be.

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I agree with you on the vegetarians and fish and chicken issue.

With the honey I just  don't want to eat anything that comes from an animal.

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With the honey I just want eat anything that comes from an animal.

???

I'm assuming it's, "I just won't eat anything that comes from an animal."  I'm still not sure of your position, tho'.

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With the honey I just want eat anything that comes from an animal.

???

I'm assuming it's, "I just won't eat anything that comes from an animal."  I'm still not sure of your position, tho'.

Oops! And a big OOPs. I just corrected it in what I meant.

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In this thread, Ecstatic, you have cited your background in biology as evidence of your ability to figure out whether bees have minds capable of suffering.  I think the biological facts about bees are relevant here, so biology is a help, but the specifics of the physical nature of mind are not yet known.  Cognitive science is not yet at a state in which we can say what sorts of physical structures can support minds and which cannot.  And that a creature does not have a neural system similar to our own is, in my mind, poor evidence that the creature does not have a mind. and cannot suffer.

A cognitive scientist would be best qualified to answer the question of whether bees have minds, or are minds, or comprise hive minds.  But even they cannot satisfactorily answer this question at the present moment.  The biological facts about bees, as currently known, are not enough to tell us whether bees lack minds (or that bee-communities lack hive minds) capable of suffering.  So the science of biology cannot really speak authoritatively on this matter.  (In fact, biology is entirely unequipped to address the question of whether a community of bees can form a hive intelligence, while each individual bee lacks intelligence -- that issue is entirely outside of the scope of biology.  But it is a hypothesis seriously supported by some cognitive scientists.  There's a pretty accessible National Geographic article about these sorts of studies here: http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0707/feature5/.)

I am agnostic on the question of whether bees have minds and the ability to suffer.  I avoid honey because I dislike exploitation, whether or not the exploitee notices or cares.  Suppose they begin to dope up the cows with heroin, so that they are deliriously happy 24 hours/day -- they no longer care about the shitty conditions, the taking of their calves, or even their own slaughter.  Would that make milk ok?  Would it make beef ok?  In my opinion, it would make those things even worse, and not better.  Suffering is evil, but it isn't the only evil, and it isn't the only thing wrong with animal exploitation.

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Cephi - I see your point. There is a lot we don't know about the world, and its inhabitants. I base my decisions on pain receptors, and developed brains. Maybe that's too simple of a stance. I'm still exploring that.

As an ecologist, I try to make the most humane and ethical of choices each and every time. As I said, I really wish we lived in a world that had ethical options on all fronts - human, animal, and environmental. I'm sometimes torn between the animal side and the environmental side. Or the human side and the animal side. All these things are connected, of course. But, unfortunately, not too many companies who sell products see that. So, for instance, you get an ecological company who has sweat shops. Good for the environment, bad for people. Or you get a sweat shop company, with horrible environmental practices, but who has vegan shoes. So, you have bad for the environment, bad for people, but good for the animals. And then it becomes, for me, an ethical balancing act. What is more important? What makes the least impact in terms of suffering?

My only other thing in terms of bees is that I'm a fairly consistent person. So, if I kill bugs in my own home - why should I make an exception for bees? Especially, since my honey comes from local, organic, beekeepers. And, from what I've read about them, what they do doesn't sound like exploitation. Obviously, that's my perspective. Not sure what the bees' perspective is - if they even have one.

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While I think that any attempts to avoid exploitation are extremely admirable, I think that many vegans tend to turn a blind eye to the humans that are often exploited to bring us our vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes. I'm not saying that you are doing so, just making a point that vegan food is not completely guilt free. Local honey may be exploitative of bees, but Mexican agave could very well be exploitative of people. I know that the sugar industry has been notorious for human rights violations, including countless child workers. Am I saying that that makes honey less exploitative? No. I can't say definitively whether it is or isn't. I'm just trying to remind us all that sacrifices are made for our dinners no matter what we have on our plates, and that it isn't always a black or white issue. 

Agreed on all counts.

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Simple.

I don't kill.

I don't want to be the sort of person that would kill; that would take a life and not think twice about it. It doesn't matter what shape or form that life may come in. It's still a life. I don't kill.

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