Is Honey Vegan?

Vegetarianism goes all the way back in ancient history to when Greek philosophers argued that if humans deserve justice, so do non-humans.  

Although the origin of the term “vegetarian” is unknown, the practice of a healthy diet with respect to animals was of common practice to those who wanted to live a long and healthy life. In the 1800’s, this movement started to take hold in Britain and the United States, promoted as a way to prevent disease from cancer all the way to acute problems such as acne.

In 1994, Donald Watson and a few other active non-dairy vegetarians came together to coin a new term to define this way of eating. The term vegan was derived from the first three and last two letters of vegetarian, and was defined as follows:

“Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals.”

Now that you have the definition of what it means to live a vegan lifestyle, let’s go into detail about why honey is not vegan and how bees are being exploited.  Believe it or not, bees are being raised just like your standard factory farm animal. The familiar white box or ‘bee factory’ that serves as a beehive has been around since the 1850’s and was created so that beekeepers could move the hives from place to place.  The New York Times said it best; that bees have been “moved from shapes that accommodated their own geometry to flat-topped tenements, sentenced to life in file cabinets.”  Since 2006, nearly 1/3 of all honey bee colonies in the US have disappeared due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a disorder caused by a combination of global warming, loss of habitat, pesticide exposure, invasive parasites, and inadequate food supply.

“Swarming”, the division of the hive upon the birth of a new queen, can cause a decline in honey production, so beekeepers do what they can to prevent it. This can include clipping the wings of a new queen, killing and replacing an older queen after just one or two years, and confining a queen who is trying to begin a swarm. Queens are also artificially inseminated using drones, which are usually killed in the process. Commercial beekeepers also trick queens into laying more eggs by adding wax cells to the hive that are larger than worker bees would normally build. Large commercial operations sometimes take all the honey instead of leaving enough for the bees to get through the winter. The honey is then replaced with a cheap sugar substitute.

You may be wondering why bees are so important, apart from just providing this delicious sweetener. It is estimated that cross-pollination from bees helps 30% of the world’s food crops and 90% of wild plants to grow. This means that without bees, most of the plants, including food and native plants, would go extinct.  In the US, bees pollinate over $15 billion worth of crops such as apples, berries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, alfalfa, and almonds. To make just one pound of honey, approximately 768 bees must fly over 55,000 miles and visit 2 million flowers.

So if you’re in a dilemma now and don’t want to harm the bees that do so much work for us, there are many sustainable methods that you can choose to produce your own honey.  Beepods are the best way to start your sustainable bee farm that allows you to enjoy the benefits of the honey without the harm to the bees.Visit the link for details on how their system works and for additional information on how to sign up.


Oh, and if you’re afraid of dying from a bee sting?  Have no fear! It takes about 1,100 bee stings to kill a human.

Julia Poliadis

Jules is a certified health coach and plant based foodie based in Miami, FL. With her international background and passion for overall wellness, she has traveled, researched and experimented with all types of diets, remedies and approaches towards healthy lifestyles.