Is honey vegan?
At Just Bee we have friends and relatives that are vegetarian and vegan. We feel that diet is a very personal matter, whether you have made choices based on health considerations, environmental issues, ethical decisions or a combination of all these things.
Because every individual is different, people will often take a different view on the subject of whether honey is vegan or not. There have been well made arguments on both sides and some that frankly don't hold as quite much weight! Armed with the right knowledge you can make up your own mind if you think honey is right for you to eat, and that’s the aim of this blog post.
Is beekeeping ethical?
Like any industry, there are good practices and bad practices, and that is no different within beekeeping and honey farming. We are very selective about the beekeepers we work with and choose them very carefully to make sure they are operating with the highest level of ethics and treat their bees with the care and respect they deserve.
Like our own beehives, the beekeepers we work with will only remove excess honey from the hives that the bees have produced naturally and they will always leave enough honey in the hive for the bees to feed off, especially over the winter. After all it's in our interests that the bees have enough honey to survive the winter! A big part of our job is looking after the bees and making sure the people we work with do the same.
A common accusation from people, who rightly care about animal welfare, is that honey taken from the hive is replaced with sugar syrup which is bad for the bees health. While this might be the case for some mass market honey producers, it is not true of all beekeepers and honey producers and it is most certainly not true for us or the beekeepers we work with. If you've ever wondered why our honey is not the cheapest available, this is part of that reason. Taking risks with the health of the bees to make more profit or reduce the price of our honey is not something we are interested in. We take bee welfare extremely seriously at every level. We want to make sure we keep our bees happy and healthy at all times!
Bees are free to leave their hive at any time!
Despite living in our hives, our bees are not trapped or caged animals. The queen bee is free to decide to leave the hive at any time. If that happens then the whole colony will follow her! It has happened to beekeepers we know personally, usually because the queen bee has decided her colony has become too big for the hive so they decide it's time to leave and find a bigger home! Thankfully most honey bee colonies are more than happy to stay where they are in the beehive provided by their beekeeper, because on the whole, they have no reason to leave!
Exploiting bees for industrial pollination
Many vegans consider honey farming as exploitation of the bees. As you will know from reading our previous blogs, humans rely on bees to pollinate a lot of the food we consume, most of which is considered vegan. But it would not be available without the extremely hard work the bees do.
Sadly a lot of this pollination has become industrialised. It can no longer happen naturally because so much of the bees natural habitat has been destroyed by modern farming methods. Every year millions of honey bee hives are trucked from around the US to California to pollinate the enormous almond groves which stretch for miles across the valley. When they have done their pollination work, the beehives are packed up and trucked to other parts of the country to pollinate cranberries, blueberries and so on, in a continuous cycle.
These bees are known as 'managed bees' and many of the nut, fruit and vegetable producers across the world are increasingly becoming reliant on this type of pollination method. It's obviously not ideal for the bees and it's part of the reason why we are working so hard to try and reverse the decline of our natural honey bee population.
Environmental considerations for global honey production
It's true that the majority of honey sold in the UK comes from all around the world, much of it from far afield as China and other parts of Asia. This clearly isn't good for the environment and the industry creates a carbon footprint through transportation. That's why at Just Bee all our honey (other than our special New Zealand Manuka) comes from within Europe. This means not only are we sourcing our honey from producers we know and trust, we are also keeping the transportation of our products to a minimum. Unfortunately it's just not possible to produce this amount of honey in the UK alone.
So is honey vegan?
The UK Vegan Society will tell you with certainty that honey is not vegan but is it really that black and white? Not everyone chooses to be vegan for the same reasons and not everyone will see things the same way.
Maybe you don't consider some honey suitable because of the methods used to produce it, where it comes from or the producers and companies involved... but maybe some honey you might?
At Just Bee we obviously do not feel that we are exploiting our bees in any way, neither would we ever intentionally harm them. In fact we are doing everything we can to produce an ethical, sustainable and natural product.
At Just Bee we will always promote bee welfare and we will continue with our mission to create a more bee friendly Britain. It's as important to our business as making great honey and keep all bees as happy and healthy as they can be!