You are here

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.  :)

That's always been my main problem in purchasing things - which product has the least exploitation on all fronts? Unfortunately, most products DO exploit animals - if not the furry kind, then the homo sapien kind.

So, if we want to talk about "real vegans" ... we'd have to discount those who shop at payless. Or those who buy any vegetable, fruit from regular supermarkets, those who shop at Walmart, etc.

I've always viewed the avoidance of the exploitation of animals to include homo sapiens. I don't think my eating local, organic honey is any different than shopping at payless for vegan shoes. One exploits bees, the other exploits homo sapiens.

Technically speaking, a "real vegan" would have severely limited choices in terms of the products they could use and eat.

0 likes

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.

We all kill. Do you eat grain or bread? The harvesting machines killed field mice and rabbits while processing it. Do you drink water? You're gulping down micro-organisms. If you shop anywhere that is not labeled as fair trade - chances are, someone died because of the conditions in which they live and the conditions where they work. Do you use paper? Read books? Lots of wildlife was killed to get that paper to you. 

It's almost impossible to avoid all harm on all counts. That's why this topic, and veganism is so fascinating to me.

How do we live so that we make the most ethical choices, on all fronts, all the time?

0 likes

I've always viewed the avoidance of the exploitation of animals to include homo sapiens. I don't think my eating local, organic honey is any different than shopping at payless for vegan shoes. One exploits bees, the other exploits homo sapiens.

Technically speaking, a "real vegan" would have severely limited choices in terms of the products they could use and eat.

There is, of course, the difference that consuming honey involves consuming an animal product, whereas buying payless vegan shoes does not involve consuming an animal product -- the manmade materials aren't actually derived from the bodies of humans.  So while I agree that all exploitation is bad, that doesn't mean that all exploitation is nonvegan.  Exploitation is only nonvegan when it involves animal products.  I'm not saying vegan exploitation is worse than nonvegan exploitation -- they both royally suck -- but I am saying there is, contrary to your last post, a clear line to be found separating vegan from nonvegan.

We all kill. Do you eat grain or bread? The harvesting machines killed field mice and rabbits while processing it. Do you drink water? You're gulping down micro-organisms. If you shop anywhere that is not labeled as fair trade - chances are, someone died because of the conditions in which they live and the conditions where they work. Do you use paper? Read books? Lots of wildlife was killed to get that paper to you. 

You're right that it is impossible to live without killng, but that does not mean we cannot choose to try to minimize the violence we do.

0 likes

Shall I go slit my wrists now? I should have realised someone would twist my words.

"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."

To me, this is cold blooded killing. You are killing a living creature because their life is convenient to you. I don't do that, because I do not believe I have the right to take a life. I do not want to be the type of person who is indifferent or even gains pleasure from killing.

Cephi's reply was much more eloquent, but I'm in a bad mood.

0 likes

Shall I go slit my wrists now? I should have realised someone would twist my words.

"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."

To me, this is cold blooded killing. You are killing a living creature because their life is convenient to you. I don't do that, because I do not believe I have the right to take a life. I do not want to be the type of person who is indifferent or even gains pleasure from killing.

Cephi's reply was much more eloquent, but I'm in a bad mood.

Actually, in the wild, that's called securing one's territory. All animals do it. I don't like roaches spreading germs around my home. Put them outside, they'll come right back in. I don't like mosquitoes spreading West Nile Virus to me. Where I live that's a problem. My mom has MS, which means a weakened immune system. So, she's especially susceptible to germs, and the west nile. I guess I value my mom's life over a mosquito or roach.

It's not so much cold blooded killing as it is protecting oneself. Cold blooded killing would be if I went outside, and stalked roached or other bugs for fun, enjoying my killing. I don't do that. I harm only when they cross my territory to harm me.

I'd love to live by the adage "harm none." But, I can't. I have to balance human, environmental, and animal ethics and make the choice that exploits the least, that does the least harm.

0 likes

It's not so much cold blooded killing as it is protecting oneself. Cold blooded killing would be if I went outside, and stalked roached or other bugs for fun, enjoying my killing. I don't do that. I harm only when they cross my territory to harm me.

That's reasonable, Ecstatic.  But you also said that consistency required you not to weigh bees' interests, since you kill mosquitos and roaches.  At the time it seemed that consistency did require that.  But by your latest post you say you kill mosquitos and roaches not for convenience or pleasure, but only to protect yourself.  Since you don't require honey to protect yourself (or your mother) there is a moral asymmetry there, and consistency no longer requires you to exploit bees just because you kill roaches.

0 likes

We all kill. Do you eat grain or bread? The harvesting machines killed field mice and rabbits while processing it. Do you drink water? You're gulping down micro-organisms. If you shop anywhere that is not labeled as fair trade - chances are, someone died because of the conditions in which they live and the conditions where they work. Do you use paper? Read books? Lots of wildlife was killed to get that paper to you. 

I think it's a matter of doing the least amount of harm.  It's not an all-or-nothing deal. 

I know animals die or are stressed by activities undertaken to benefit me.  I acknowledge that by trying to live simply.  For example, I do read books, but I borrow them from the library.  I do own shoes, two pair:  my everyday shoes and Tevas (i.e., not a closet full).  I own reusable grocery bags, but not handbags.  I try to buy just the right amount of vegetables each week at the organic farmers' market so nothing goes to waste.

I don't really see the connection between mice being killed during grain harvest (something you don't directly affect) and eating honey (a direct decision).

I have to admit, I will swat at a mosquito if it lands on me.  I think that's because I have never managed to catch one.  I feel bad because it's the preggers female mosquitoes that bite.  I'd much rather avoid mosquitoes, though.  All other insects get transported outside, even black widow spiders.  I go online and read about each insect's habitat if I don't already know it and then put them somewhere similar.  It doesn't take much extra time on my part to walk them outside.  That's part of doing the least amount of harm.  I have the choice to not harm them.

0 likes

That's reasonable, Ecstatic.  But you also said that consistency required you not to weigh bees' interests, since you kill mosquitos and roaches.  At the time it seemed that consistency did require that.  But by your latest post you say you kill mosquitos and roaches not for convenience or pleasure, but only to protect yourself.  Since you don't require honey to protect yourself (or your mother) there is a moral asymmetry there, and consistency no longer requires you to exploit bees just because you kill roaches.

This is a good point.

I think my main thing is that the research I've done shows that organic, local honey helps more than harms bee populations. I think someone posted an article about that a while back in this thread. I'd rather buy the local, organic honey than the unknown origin Agave syrup. Where did it come from? Who made it? How much did the workers get paid? What are their environmental practices?

Like I said (and if this doesn't make me a vegan - it's fine, I'm not attached to that label), as an ecologist, I like to look at the WHOLE picture and make the choice which harms least, exploits least, and is most helpful to the environment, is most ethical. Most of the time, it means choosing the vegan option. As a lot of vegan companies are also eco-friendly. Sometimes, unfortunately, the vegan option exploits the environment in extremely destructive ways, i.e. shoes in Payless. And, without earth, we will have no life - homo sapien, or any other animal.

For me, as I said, it's a balancing act. I try to choose those products and companies who are ethical on all 3 fronts - animal, environmental, people. Sometimes, that option is not there. So, I have to choose what I think will harm least. Because the bottom line for me is that without an earth, we will have zero life, I will choose the eco-friendly option over any other. (Assuming the choice is between eco-friendly and non-vegan or vegan and environmentally destructive.)

For me, organic honey is eco-friendly. And it's better than allowing the bee populations to die out. Because if you allow that, a whole host of flowers will die out. Which will lead to a whole host of organisms dying out. Which in turn will cause ripples in the entire eco-system.

Anyway, I didn't really mean to debate this. I was just curious for everyone's reasons behind their choices.  :) I posted mine, from the point of view of someone who is deeply committed to ecology and earth friendly choices. And I was curious to the reasons of others, who come from different perspectives.

0 likes

For me, organic honey is eco-friendly. And it's better than allowing the bee populations to die out.

Apis mellifera aren't native to North America.  They have distrupted native bee populations, outcompeted native insects, and skewed the pollination rates of some plant species. 

0 likes

Like I said (and if this doesn't make me a vegan - it's fine, I'm not attached to that label), as an ecologist, I like to look at the WHOLE picture and make the choice which harms least, exploits least, and is most helpful to the environment, is most ethical. Most of the time, it means choosing the vegan option. As a lot of vegan companies are also eco-friendly. Sometimes, unfortunately, the vegan option exploits the environment in extremely destructive ways, i.e. shoes in Payless. And, without earth, we will have no life - homo sapien, or any other animal.

This reasoning seems good to me.  I agree that veganism is a good guide but not an infallible one when choosing amongst options, and the fallibility of blind veganism isn't often enough appreciated by vegans.  I'm not at all sure that this means we should buy local organic honey rather than agave -- as you say, we'd have to find out more about the agave, and the honey -- but I agree with the ethical principles you refer to.

EDIT: I do want to add, though, that this reasoning is better in the case of, e.g., shoes -- since we need those -- than in the case of honey/agave, since, if both those options are bad, we could choose simply to buy neither.

Anyway, I didn't really mean to debate this.

Sure... but were you really surprised to get debate, after posting in a vegan forum that you have no moral compunctions about killing certain kinds of animals? ;)

0 likes

Apis mellifera aren't native to North America.  They have distrupted native bee populations, outcompeted native insects, and skewed the pollination rates of some plant species. 

No, they're not. But, what option is left now? Let them die out, and at this point you will cause even more ripples in the ecosystem. As humans, we've managed to disrupt almost every single ecosystem that we've touched. And putting them back together or fixing them is a heck of a lot harder than it was to destroy it in the first place. Plus, you can't ever go back. Once changed or altered, it must run its course until equilibrium is restored again.

The positive thing is that ecosystems have the ability to adjust. They just need time to do so. They won't get that time, though, if we constantly introduce a species and take it away ad inifitum.

0 likes

This reasoning seems good to me.  I agree that veganism is a good guide but not an infallible one when choosing amongst options, and the fallibility of blind veganism isn't often enough appreciated by vegans.  I'm not at all sure that this means we should buy local organic honey rather than agave -- as you say, we'd have to find out more about the agave, and the honey -- but I agree with the ethical principles you refer to.

EDIT: I do want to add, though, that this reasoning is better in the case of, e.g., shoes -- since we need those -- than in the case of honey/agave, since, if both those options are bad, we could choose simply to buy neither.

This is a good point. We could avoid both. I guess in my case, for health reasons, I avoid processed sugar. I think it has negative nutritional value. So, then the alternative option is maple syrup. Which I, personally, don't like. But, I suppose could get used to if it came down to it.

Quote:
Sure... but were you really surprised to get debate, after posting in a vegan forum that you have no moral compunctions about killing certain kinds of animals? ;)

You know, actually, I was. And I think it's because all the vegans I know are also fellow biology masters, with a concentration in ecology. So, all of us are looking at the whole picture. And most of us eat honey. The only other vegans I know are a married couple, who aren't ecologists but real estate agents - and they also eat honey.

So, I didn't really realize that eating honey is such a controversial issue. I thought it was more "optional." Guess I was wrong there! 

0 likes

To avoid any sort of guilt I just use organic agave nectar. I don't really see honey as non-vegan but I prefer agave nectar anyway.

0 likes

I have discovered that brown rice syrup is good, and replaces corn syrup on a one-to-one scale (equal measurement for substitution). I am very glad that there IS a replacement for CS, which I know is bad, but I don't know if it's "healthier." I remember the whole "brown sugar is healthier" bandwagon in the 70's...and then it came out that brown sugar isn't less refined, it's white sugar with molasses mixed in.

0 likes

Apis mellifera aren't native to North America. 

No, they're not. But, what option is left now? Let them die out, and at this point you will cause even more ripples in the ecosystem.

??? If you don't eat honey, bees will become extinct?

0 likes

when logic fails I just laugh.

0 likes

??? If you don't eat honey, bees will become extinct?

It's been pretty well documented that bees are declining in their populations. One of the things organic honeybee keepers do is keep that population stable.

0 likes

when logic fails I just laugh.

Actually, it's very logical if you do your research. It's pretty simple too. And documented over and over in every region, in all parts of the world. It goes like this: the development of our world is encroaching on the territory of other animals, including bees. When we come in, animals die out or disperse and attempt to try their living in other regions. Because of this, we have wildlife habitats and national parks.  Beekeepers play their part as well. All these things are a way to counterbalance the ever increasing development. Bees happen to give us honey in the bargain.

Now, whether or not we agree if species should be left to die out due to our development is a whole other story.

0 likes

Actually, it's very logical if you do your research. It's pretty simple too. And documented over and over in every region, in all parts of the world. It goes like this: the development of our world is encroaching on the territory of other animals, including bees. When we come in, animals die out or disperse and attempt to try their living in other regions. Because of this, we have wildlife habitats and national parks.  Beekeepers play their part as well. All these things are a way to counterbalance the ever increasing development. Bees happen to give us honey in the bargain.

Here again I think the answer is to reject both options -- we should neither accept a world in which animals live only in captivity, nor a world in which there are no animals.  But it doesn't seem to me that that is even the issue that confronts us here.  The issue isn't a choice between having no bees and having captive bees; the choice is between having relatively fewer bees and having relatively more (captive) bees.  Having no bees (that is, bee extinction) may be a worse situation than having only captive bees; but it's not at all clear that having few wild bees is a worse situation than having lots of captive bees.  I don't think anyone really fears that anytime in the near future, bees will actually become extinct.  Is it a possibility?  Sure, of course -- what isn't?  But it's so distant from us in the here and now that it would be bizarre to use it to determine whether or not we will buy honey in the here and now.

You know, actually, I was. And I think it's because all the vegans I know are also fellow biology masters, with a concentration in ecology. So, all of us are looking at the whole picture.

I'll assume you didn't mean to imply that those of us who disagree with you are failing to see the big picture (unless you tell me that assumption is mistaken).  ;)

0 likes

Here again I think the answer is to reject both options -- we should neither accept a world in which animals live only in captivity, nor a world in which there are no animals.

You're right. But, then, we'd have to stop all development right now. And, somehow, even the idealist in me can't see that happening.

Quote:
I don't think anyone really fears that anytime in the near future, bees will actually become extinct.  Is it a possibility?  Sure, of course -- what isn't?  But it's so distant from us in the here and now that it would be bizarre to use it to determine whether or not we will buy honey in the here and now.

This is what people thought of the wolves and coyotes as well. So, they killed them without mercy to eradicate them. They thought there were so many of them that mass killings wouldn't make much of a difference. In less than a few dacades, they managed to eliminate most of them. Certainly, they elminated them completely in one area.

This is different in that bees are not persecuted as wolves. But, the same thing has happened in other species that also weren't persecuted. Their lands were simply encorached on by development, and eventually the species died out. Happens in the rainforest everyday.

I am VERY concerned about the distant future. Because its the distant future which is in trouble. It is that future which needs to be saved and preserved. As an ecologist, when I think in the longterm ... I mean the loooooongterm. As in hundreds of years from now. I want earth to be healthy, whole, and able to sustain life humanely for everyone. Forever, if possible. The decisions we make today will impact that future, hundreds of years from now.

Quote:
I'll assume you didn't mean to imply that those of us who disagree with you are failing to see the big picture (unless you tell me that assumption is mistaken).  ;)

No, not at all! I merely meant that we're coming from different reasons. Vegans come from the perspective of avoiding all animal products so as to not exploit them and allow them to live, naturally, humanely, etc. Ecologists (me, and at least the ones I know who do choose a vegan diet) come from the perspective of also trying to allow all of life to flourish humanely, without exploitation, but ALSO without extinction in the very loooooongterm. Because the loss of one species creates ripples - often negative - in the ecosystem. Continual extinction will lead to a loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity is the stuff of life! So, while we may be surrounded by millions of bees now - that can change fast. It's surprising and scary how quickly and easily one species just disappears.

I merely want to preserve life in a humane way. So, it comes down to the question: do I think bees are exploited? I don't think organic beekeepers exploit their bees. First, because beekeepers are quite respectful of life. Second, because I don't think bees have a notion of exploitation, pain, or suffering. Others, obviously, will disagree with me on that. And I respect that opinion. It's a diverse world, after all.

But, I definitely did not mean vegans don't see the whole picture! Most vegans I meet are very conscious and aware of the world around them.

0 likes

Pages

Log in or register to post comments

More Posts Like This