Honey is probably the product most frequently mistaken as vegan-friendly. There is a common misconception that honey bees make their honey especially for us, but this couldn’t be much further from the truth.
Conventional beekeepers aim to harvest the maximum amount of honey, with high honey yields being viewed as a mark of success. When farmers remove honey from a hive, they replace it with a sugar substitute which is significantly worse for the bees’ health since it lacks the essential micro-nutrients of honey.
In conventional beekeeping, honey bees are specifically bred to increase productivity. Already endangered, this selective breeding narrows the population gene pool and increases susceptibility to disease and large-scale die-offs. Diseases are also caused by importing different species of bees for use in hives.
These diseases are then spread to the thousands of other pollinators we and other animals rely on, disputing the common myth that honey production is good for our environment.
In addition, hives can be culled post-harvest to keep farmer costs down. Queen bees often have their wings clipped by beekeepers to prevent them leaving the hive to produce a new colony elsewhere, which would decrease productivity and lessen profit.
Honey’s popularity shows no sign of slowing. The honey industry, like many other commercial industries, is profit-driven where the welfare of the bees is often secondary to commercial gain.
Mass breeding of honeybees affects the populations of other competing nectar-foraging insects, including other bees. Overwhelmed by the ever-inflating quantities of farmed bees, the numbers of native bumblebees have declined.
Unlike bees, humans can thrive without honey in their diets. Luckily, there are a whole host of readily-available vegan alternatives for those with a sweet tooth. Date syrup, maple syrup, molasses, butterscotch syrup, golden syrup and agave nectar are all viable options, whether you need a product for baking, cooking, as a sweetener for drinks, or to eat a spoon of out of the jar at the end of a long day.
If you wish to support bees, please do not buy beeswax or honey, consider donating to a suitable conservation charity instead.