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Honey

Eating honey is not vegan.

Discuss.

I know this has been talked about many a time on VW, but I would like to be involved in the discussion. If you aren't interested in debating if/why/etc. eating honey is not/is vegan, then don't post!

Well, here's my two cents, whether anyone wanted it or not:

No, it is not "vegan" to eat honey.

However, one could still call themselves vegan as a way to simplify their diets in most social situations.

For example: My family and I eat honey and eggs if they are humanely harvested and raised. We know where our honey "lives", and we know the folks who raise the chickens who give us eggs. About 90+ percent of the time, we eat vegan.

However, at work, I'm vegan. So I don't have to explain the the finer points of my diet each and every time we order out. At a basic chain restaurant, I'm vegan, so I don't have to explain. Because you know any eggs or honey they have, 99.999% likely came from a cruel source.

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I haven't looked at this entire thread, but I wanted to mention that if the label of vegan applied to everything we use, NO ONE would really be vegan anywhere in the world.

Things like rubber, glue, medicines, toothpaste, vaccines, etc. are not all vegan. One could also go as far as saying that vegetables grown in animal waste is not vegan since most of the animal waste comes from animal farms. Even if people lived "primitively" and "off the land", the existence of the humans would doubtlessly have some negative impact on the other creatures who rely on the same environment and ecosystem for survival. When crops are harvested, bugs and small animals might be killed. If you walk on the earth you're going to trample something...this is the way I see it. Veganism has never been about purity (for me, anyway). That wouldn't be possible.

That said, I DO have a big issue when people know that certain animal products are not needed (for instance in their diet) but choose to consume it anyway. In my mind, if they are not necessary for your health, they are luxury items. What's the trade off? Usually it's ending the life of another creature prematurely, after a wealth of suffering (both physically and otherwise) from birth. This is not worthwhile to me.

I like to think I know more than the average person about the animal agriculture industry, having studied this field at university, so that is not my only reason for being vegan...apart from the "luxury" argument, I have a huge problem with the fact that farmed animals get such a raw deal - and when people are unable to see abuse as abuse when it's systemized and legalized, it's extremely frustrating. But the short answer I tend to give people is the luxury one.

Anyway, back to honey, I agree that animals shouldn't be treated in ways that could harm them, especially if we don't have enough evidence to know whether they experience things like pain. I generally avoid honey, but if it's an ingredient in something that's, say, the most vegan item I have access to at one time or another, I'll eat it. I also use toothpaste and drive on roads with tires on my car. The degree to which you can avoid something comes into play, I guess, and obviously honey is something that people can choose to avoid, but I don't think it's really possible to label yourself "vegan" without using ANY animal products at all throughout your life (especially in "developed" countries).

So...I guess my point is, I don't really have qualms with people calling themselves "vegan" who still occasionally eat honey. I think it's one of the less cruel animal products out there (not to say it's cruelty free, but to me it's better than using something like milk or eggs.) There are so many animal products in so many things we use every day, we don't even know what they all are. I think if someone lives as close to vegan as they're able to, that counts.

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With bees, it's not as though they're coming in our homes, building their hives, drinking our beer, and then we take some of their honey just so that we're even. We either have to seek out this honey, or we have to farm the bees.

thats the funniest thing I've heard in a while!!!!! ;D Thank God the bees aren't drinking my beer!

For instance, I probably have sweatshop-made clothing. If there was a thread on that, maybe I'd be tempted to try to justify my sweatshop clothing with "but i'm a broke college student! I can only afford to shop at Target!" or with perhaps more philosophical statements, but I'd like to think I'm against sweatshop labor.
Does any of this make sense, or am I just sleeepy?

I buy clothes at Target sometimes.....is Target really bad????

Not Target specifically, but most (all?) the clothes there aren't made in the U.S., so I guess no guarantee of sweatshop-free labor. To be honest I don't even know if certain countries are better than others or if particular brands have better sources... I just said Target 'cause that's where I get most of my clothes from (that aren't animal rights tees).

Anyway, back on topic. I think I got the "drinking our beer" line from somewhere else...

tino, some people mentioned that although day to day life is relatively not vegan (fertilizer, tires, meds, etc), these types of things are typically unavoidable whereas honey is perfectly avoidable. Theoretically you could live a life without tires/toothpaste/agriculture/take a chance without medicine, but you'd have to move to another country and radically change your lifestyle (like PK & his treehouse!). Some people think not eating meat is "radical," but not eating honey is... well, it's not considered the center of the meal or an essential nutrient, except for people who claim it saves their sore throats and allergies (evidence is anecdotal... I'm still looking for studies if anyone has found any!)

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If it's been a year does it count as repeating myself?

My issue is that if people mis-use "vegan," then it confuses The Others.  The example I often cite is when I went to a potluck that was supposed to have vegan food and most of the dishes contained honey.  I went hungry and stayed hungry because I couldn't eat anything.

I think part of it is that the smaller the animal the less people care.  I've been told numerous times that "they're just bees, it's not like they're animals."  Humans and insects share the same Animalia kingdom.  We split off several divisions later at the superphylum level.  (I think.  It's somewhere around there, anyway.)  Somehow there's this big disconnect.  If bees were larger I'd bet you that we wouldn't be having this discussion.

I don't care if other people are vegan, veg, omni, or cannibal - as long as it doesn't add to the confusion of veganism.  The way ais works it makes some sense.  He consumes it in his home, but he doesn't confuse the general population.  I have a co-worker who's crazy insane into bees.  I've talked to him about bee keeping.  From what I understand, a caring person with a small operation doesn't smush the bees when closing the hive or feed them sugar water - they make sure they only take "excess" honey and leave the bees enough for the winter.  Honey from the grocery store doesn't have that guarantee.

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I soooo tire of the argument that "well, we use 50 billion other things in daily life that aren't vegan, technically we kill bugs with our food/shoes/cars, blah blah blahhhhhhh."  Give me a break.  If we can avoid milk powder or egg whites or other garbage on a consistent basis, we can avoid honey.  The "I'll just lump honey in with all the other unidentified/unavoidable animal products in my food" argument holds no water.  That's asinine. 

If you're spooning honey into your cup of tea or spreading it on your toast, that's not vegan.  It has nothing to do with the fact that you accidentally crushed a beetle with your bicycle tire.  Those are not remotely similar.  The entire thing is just one big "straw man" logical tactic, and I don't buy it at all.  The argument is bankrupt, regardless of ethical considerations.

If you like honey, and your honey graham crackers are worth more to you than owning up to where they came from, fine.  But honey is not vegan.  Just like whey is not vegan, and cochineal is not vegan, and rennet is not vegan.  This is not a gray area.  Man up and cut the crap from your diet.

My personal theory about this is that people are often too timid to assert that they are not okay with the consumption of honey.  Naturally, when you try to explain it to omnis, most don't get it.  My oldest vegan friend (who introduced me to veganism in the first place) originally said that honey was a point of contention in the vegan community and that he didn't really know where he stood on it.  Later when I became vegan, he admitted to me that that was a lie--he was definitely opposed to honey consumption, but he didn't feel confident explaining such at the time.  I think vegans eating honey is just a case of being able to get away with something/"picking your battles."  Like, "I do so much to eliminate animal products all ready, I'm not gonna concern myself with that detail."  Which I find pretty disappointing.  Give me a break.

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Yep.

My question is: if you don't avoid products that include honey (bread, graham crackers, giant lumps of honeycomb, etc.), do you not avoid products with whey? I mean, it's just an unidentifiable ground up powder, and it's in so many things.

It just really, really doesn't make sense.

Less cruel?! Who's to say?!!?  >:(

I guess if you know it's not vegan, and you're fine with it, it is what it is.

http://actingschmacting.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/broken-record.jpg

eta: I was just looking at Annie's dressings, and they list "vegan," "gluten free," "dairy free," etc...
one was listed as dairy free, but not vegan b/c it has honey.  ;)b

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I wonder if there are semi-vegans who avoid straight up meat/dairy/eggs/honey but don't bother with ingredients (whey, milk fat in a dark chocolate bar, chicken fat in a rice mix). I think it's probably uncommon, but that kind of shopping seems to be more in line with the "well, it doesn't *really* contribute to increased demand" (idk if those ingredients are genuinely for flavor or just fillers) that some people claim with honey. Although, when honey is in a product (often whole wheat bread), it's in there as a specific part of the recipe for flavor/"health reasons"/tradition.

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I wonder if there are semi-vegans who avoid straight up meat/dairy/eggs/honey but don't bother with ingredients (whey, milk fat in a dark chocolate bar, chicken fat in a rice mix). I think it's probably uncommon, but that kind of shopping seems to be more in line with the "well, it doesn't *really* contribute to increased demand" (idk if those ingredients are genuinely for flavor or just fillers) that some people claim with honey. Although, when honey is in a product (often whole wheat bread), it's in there as a specific part of the recipe for flavor/"health reasons"/tradition.

I believe they say "not a strict vegan." You know, since "semi-vegan" sounds slightly derogatory....and ludicrous.

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fb, hh kmk AND ac (whew!),

I pretty much agree with all of you, honey is definitely easy peasy to avoid. My statement about it being "less cruel" (although I admit, I don't know tons about honey production) was along the lines of confinement - bees have more freedom to practice their behaviours than pretty much any other farmed animal, because those behaviours are what produce honey. I'm not saying I don't think bees suffer, (who knows?), I just think they get a better deal than, say, battery caged hens. I guess bees also are not slaughtered as their "productive" lives wane. No long transportation to face that many other animals have to, they aren't fed diets that cause health problems, there are no repetitive forced pregnancies or lactations, etc. That said, I would automatically assume that animals who are exploited and kept for human use generally suffer due to the nature of their use, including bees.

also hh, I know what you mean about confusing non-veg folks. my mom once tried to serve me a casserole saying "well it only has a bit of butter in it," knowing full well it also had cream soup, eggs and a big layer of cheese on top. The family is better about this now - my aunt even went out of her way to find me vegan jelly beans for easter.

Anyway, I didn't really want to argue whether or not honey is acceptable to eat (especially since I know so little about honey production!) I just wanted to express that many vegans are not 100% strict - I'm sure plenty of us on here aren't - but I wouldn't look down on someone for calling themselves vegan if they ate something non-vegan like twice a year or something. I do think the more you can do the better, but I also feel like people should be praised for making the effort, instead of bringing them down over one thing like honey. (I guess the point is, I don't care for the vegan police, although I've been guilty of BEING the vegan police on occasion!) :P

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I guess bees also are not slaughtered as their "productive" lives wane. No long transportation to face that many other animals have to, they aren't fed diets that cause health problems, there are no repetitive forced pregnancies or lactations, etc. That said, I would automatically assume that animals who are exploited and kept for human use generally suffer due to the nature of their use, including bees.

I loves me some bees, so in light of knowledge (not nagging or anything):
1.  Some honey producers collect honey that supports the hive during winter and replace it with a crap diet, so it can be detrimental to bee health.
2.  Some honey producers (like my college professor), smash bees when closing the hive, so there's death involved.  My co-worker (whom I trust) assures me that hives can be closed without killing bees, but i haven't seen anyone take the time.  They just smash whichever ones happen to be in the way.
3.  I'd say that most honey isn't organic, since the bees are treated with antibiotics, antifungal, anti...
4.  This is the most important one - there has been increased international trade with honey bee pollinators.  They spread diseases to native bee populations.  I suspect it's one of the main reasons why there's been such alarming health problems and die-off in bee colonies.  Disease, misery, and death are related to bee operations.

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ooh, good point wiht #4 especially. I forgot about that.

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I just had a HUGE argument with my ag adviser over this. He says bees arent even animals, and honey and beeswax have nothing to do with being vegan. Now he's been really supportive with me over the whole vegetarian/vegan thing on trips and taking me to get food and all, but he told me he taught me better.
UGH.
I said bees are harmed and die in the process, he said that was bs and people arent going around killing the bees (i dont think he fully understood what i was saying and im pretty sure he thinks that i think beeswax is like, mashed up bees or something).
So now i'm going to read this WHOLE thread to help back me up for part 2 of this debate tomorrow.
He told me to bring proof to him that bees are animals (which is easy, because, they are... what are they then, a plant?!?). and i need more to back this up.. Ugh..

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I just had a HUGE argument with my ag adviser over this. He says bees arent even animals, and honey and beeswax have nothing to do with being vegan. Now he's been really supportive with me over the whole vegetarian/vegan thing on trips and taking me to get food and all, but he told me he taught me better.
UGH.
I said bees are harmed and die in the process, he said that was bs and people arent going around killing the bees (i dont think he fully understood what i was saying and im pretty sure he thinks that i think beeswax is like, mashed up bees or something).
So now i'm going to read this WHOLE thread to help back me up for part 2 of this debate tomorrow.
He told me to bring proof to him that bees are animals (which is easy, because, they are... what are they then, a plant?!?). and i need more to back this up.. Ugh..

here ya go! http://www.vegetus.org/honey/honey.htm

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kmk: Just to clarify, I wasn't really referring to accidentally killing animals... More like purposely stepping on/squashing them.  And I totally agree with you (and t_b) about the honey that is commercially produced... They give the bees crap sugar water and squish them when they handle the hives.  But regarding local, accountable, organic honey produces who are kind to the bees and only take excess honey, I have no qualms.

I respect everyone here, and all the other strict vegans out there, for choosing to cut out all animal products. :)  I did too, for a short time.  But when I really got down to thinking about it and considering the ethics, biology, and ecology of it all, I realized that I would rather make personal dietary decisions based on a lot of thinking, than simply adhere fully to the "vegan" label because I am already 99% there.  (I do use the word among nonvegans, however, because I don't want to get into the nitty gritty details.)

Regarding honey in premade products (kmk mentioned graham crackers):  I avoid it.  Like many people said before, there is no telling where it came from, or how the bees were treated.

In general, I believe that it is a personal choice for everyone, and will I respect someone whatever they choose, because we all know that we vegans put a lot more thought into our food than most other people. :)

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I wonder if there are semi-vegans who avoid straight up meat/dairy/eggs/honey but don't bother with ingredients (whey, milk fat in a dark chocolate bar, chicken fat in a rice mix). I think it's probably uncommon, but that kind of shopping seems to be more in line with the "well, it doesn't *really* contribute to increased demand" (idk if those ingredients are genuinely for flavor or just fillers) that some people claim with honey. Although, when honey is in a product (often whole wheat bread), it's in there as a specific part of the recipe for flavor/"health reasons"/tradition.

I believe they say "not a strict vegan." You know, since "semi-vegan" sounds slightly derogatory....and ludicrous.

derogatory! i guess. i'd personally be ok with the label if i felt it fit. i guess i feel like i'd get fewer questions if i said "semi" rather than "not strict" ('cause that might result in more "... so, what about butter/chicken/fish/ice cream/gelatin/free pizza?" type questions).

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kmk: Just to clarify, I wasn't really referring to accidentally killing animals... More like purposely stepping on/squashing them. 

Do vegans do this?  None that I know do.  So I fail to see the hypocrisy here.  I also fail to see how finding hypocrisy within oneself or others (i.e., an action with conflicts with a purported code of ethics) is reason to abandon the ethic in favor of the errant action.  That makes no sense to me. 

For instance, if I lie about something, but deep down I believe that it is wrong to lie, would it be fair to look upon me and say, "She is being a hypocrite.  There must be something wrong with her moral code because she hasn't followed it perfectly--get rid of the idea that lying is bad."  Of course not. 

But when I really got down to thinking about it and considering the ethics, biology, and ecology of it all, I realized that I would rather make personal dietary decisions based on a lot of thinking, than simply adhere fully to the "vegan" label because I am already 99% there. 

I guess I wonder what were these compelling ethical, biological, and ecological arguments which persuaded you to change your ways from not eating honey to eating it.  All the information I've seen suggests that eating honey is unethical (provided a code of ethics which assumes animals have inherent rights), biologically unfounded, and ecologically irresponsible. 

This thread got me thinking about the words "personal choice" because people use that so often in reference to their choice to consume honey.  Aren't all decisions we make "personal decisions," unless someone else decides for us?  You choose everything you do.  To say that something is a personal choice seems redundant and is an attempt to exempt oneself from the prevailing ethical framework.  This is why I don't usually say, "Being vegan is my personal choice."  No, it's my choice.  Furthermore, saying it is personal removes us from the fact that this "personal" decision has consequences.  i.e., "It is my personal decision to eat meat"--it removes us from the bigger picture.  No, it is your personal decision to wear purple on Tuesdays.  Anyway, just a curious semantics thing.  It's interesting how we do that. 

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This is the reason you eat honey:

I love the taste of honey!

I would rather make personal dietary decisions based on a lot of thinking, than simply adhere fully to the "vegan" label

Wisely deleted comment.

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Wisely deleted comment.

Wait, you said something and then deleted it?  Awwww.

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I just had a HUGE argument with my ag adviser over this. He says bees arent even animals

I understand that intelligence is a sliding scale, but he's an ag advisor!

                            Humans                   Bees                 Starfish
Domain:               Eukaryota               Eukaryota         Eukaryota
Kingdom:             Animalia                  Animalia            Animalia
Phylum:               Chordata                Arthropoda       Echinodermata

I would think, being in ag, that he'd at least be concerned with the current bee die-off.

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Wisely deleted comment.

Wait, you said something and then deleted it?  Awwww.

I deleted it just before I posted it.  I'm working on a little over four hours of sleep and I'm cranky as hell.

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