Updated: Mar 15, 2021
Recently it has been reported in the news that foods like almonds and avocados are not vegan. There have been newspaper articles, comments on talk shows, vegans are getting upset and meat eaters are calling vegans hypocrites.
So, What’s It All About?
Most of the crops in the world are pollinated by bees, however because so much food needs to be produced these days farmers are growing more and more plants which means more pollination. This then means that we need more bees to do the job. Bees will naturally pollinate plants as they collect nectar from flowers, the pollen gets stuck to their fuzzy little bodies and legs and they then carry it from one plant to another, sharing the pollen as they go. This is great if you’re growing tomatoes at home or there are blackberries growing in a field, but if you’re trying to grow enough cherries to sell to a supermarket you need something more reliable, you want to know that every flower will be pollinated so that you get the most amount of cherries, or almonds, or avocados as possible. This is done by using pollination management and this is a process of taking bee hives, full of bees, to the plants that need pollinating.
What’s The Problem With Pollination Management?
The crops that use pollination management include apples, almonds, pears, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, watermelons and more. These different plants and trees are grown in many different areas and not all of the areas can sustain bees all year round. This means that bees have to be transported to where the plants are. They may spend spring in one place pollinating flowers and then get moved in the summer to another area and then in the autumn they could be trucked hundreds, possibly thousands, of mile to another farm to pollinate the flowers there. This is not natural and it is incredibly stressful for the bee colonies. Many bees die during these journeys which can lead to the complete collapse of a hive where so many bees die from one hive that the few that are left cannot maintain the hive on their own and they don't survive. There is also the problem that there simply are not enough bees to go around. Very few farmers want to be beekeepers as it doesn’t make a lot of money so the ones that are left will have to travel many miles with their bees in a constant cycle of pollination to get to every farm.
So Are Almonds Vegan?
Bees going about their business pollinating plants, doing their bee thing, is perfectly vegan. However, using bees as a tool to pollinate plants isn’t, in principle. The definition of veganism is that we live in a way that minimises harm to animals and/or the environment. This means that we have to take into account what is possible and practical. Tracy Reiman, a representative for PETA, People For Ethical Treatment Of Animals, commented:
“Average shoppers can’t avoid produce that involves migratory beekeeping, any more than they can avoid driving on asphalt.”
Food that is produced using migratory beekeeping and these methods of pollination management aren't labelled to say so. There is no way of knowing for sure whether or not your food was produced in this way. But, with so much food being produced it is highly likely that your watermelon did use bees that had to travel many miles to do the job of pollinating the watermelon plants. By being vegan you are already reducing the work that bees have to do though. Most of the crops produced in the world are used to make animal feed for the animals that people use for meat, by not eating meat less plants are needed. Another was to reduce the workload of the bees is to reduce food waste. With so much food being wasted the bees are working overtime to produce food that no one will eat. A spokesperson for The Vegan Society, Dominika Piasecka, said:
“Vegans avoid using animals as far as possible and practicable. We are aware that many forms of farming involve indirect harm to animals, but it is unfortunately not possible or practicable to avoid the destruction of other animals in most farming at this time. However, we do not consider that just because it is not possible to avoid one hundred percent of the cruelty, suffering and exploitation to animals that we should not bother at all. Vegans make a huge contribution to the reduction in suffering and death caused to animals and we would welcome any changes made to farming practices that support this.”
By simply not eating honey, using bees wax or royal jelly we are already helping the bees. Let's reduce our food waste and help them even more.