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Is Honey Vegan?

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Note* All of the photos in this blog were taken my me either in my garden or the local park.

At this time year there are, or should be, lots of bees around and, as long as we let them go about their business they are really happy to let us get close and appreciate how fantastic they are.

Only honey bees are farmed for honey

Honey is considered a natural sweetener and to some it is a miracle food with anti-bacterial and healing properties. It is used to sweeten drinks and food and as a spread on toast; people use it in hot water with lemon when they have a cold or sore throat as it can feel soothing. Then there are people that will have a teaspoon of manuka everyday because they believe that it has some health benefits that you can’t get anywhere else.

It's feels so good to have bees flying around you, busy at their work pollinating flowers

Where Does Honey Come From?

Honey comes from bees, specifically honey bees, they are the only bees that produce the honey that is sold in the shops and, just as we use honey for food, so do the bees. People would like to think that bees make honey for them, or that the honey beekeepers take is spare, but the truth is that bees make honey as food for themselves to store for cold months. During the autumn and winter months there are no bee friendly flowers out to supply bees with nectar, their preferred food, this is why we don’t see and bees buzzing about when it’s cold. So, planning ahead, bees will collect as much nectar as they can when flowers are open and use the extra to make honey so that they will not starve when the flowers are gone.

Without the bees there'd be no blakcberries, in a couple of months this flower will have become a fruit

Does This Mean That Honey Isn’t Vegan?

The definition of veganism isn’t just to not eat animals or products that are made from their bodies, it is also to live in a way that minimises the exploitation or harming of animals and the environment. Now, if bees are making honey so that they can eat during the winter and humans take that honey for themselves that is exploitation, this then means that honey is not vegan.

Bees need their honey as it is the perfect winter food for them. It contain nutrients that they need as well as sugar for energy, this is especially important when it's cold as bees vibrate their bodies to warm the hive. Without the extra calories from honey bees wouldn't be able to do this and the cold would kill them all. Some beekeepers figure out how much honey they can take and will leave what they think it enough for the bees, other beekeepers store extra honey to give back to the bees as they need it. Beekeepers that are more concerned with making as much money as possible will other take all of the honey a give the bees sugar instead. Sugar is in no way as nutritious to the bees and their health will suffer, but the bees have no choice.

This bee was so busy I struggled to get a good photo, it wouldn't keep still

What Alternatives Are There?

  • Agave nectar, is a sweetener commonly derived from the sap of agave plants grown in South Africa and Mexico.

  • Coconut nectar, one of the healthiest natural, liquid sweetener options out there, coconut nectar is made from the sap of coconut blossom stems. Coconut nectar is high in minerals, vitamins, and contains all nine essential amino acids.

  • Maple syrup, a common natural alternative for sweetening, pure maple syrup has more uses than just making your pancakes and waffles extra tasty. Pure maple syrup is made directly from the sap of maple trees and has a lot of health benefits and contains a lot of different nutrients.

We really don't need to eat honey, people just like it, for me that doesn't justify taking the bees food. Let leave the honey to make their food and we can get our sweetness from fruits and trees.

Which natural sweeteners do you prefer?


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