This is a topic of debate that I see very often and I am always interested in the different arguments for each side. I therefore though it would be fun to hear from you guys as to what you would do: Would you eat home grown honey? And by home grown I mean honey that comes from an individual’s own hive that they keep as a hobby, rather than from a farm or commercial enterprise that is mainly keeping bees for financial gain.
Do vegans usually eat commercial honey?
Obviously everyone is on their own vegan journey so there is no ‘correct’ answer, however from my experience and from speaking with other people the majority of vegans tend to avoid commercially produced honey. Some argue that it is because it is an animal product means a vegan should never eat this as vegans do not eat, wear or otherwise use any animal products as much as they possibly can. Honey would be no different.
Others have also mentioned that commercial honey comes with a large degree of exploitation and that on commercial scale honey farming the welfare of the bees is of least consideration. To harvest honey, bees need to first be smoked as this makes them sleepy and less aggressive, and then the actual harvesting part can cause the death of a lot of the colony’s bees because they get trapped in the machines or get trapped in the honey comb as it is being removed from the hive. Since the entire message behind veganism is to avoid causing harm to any living being as much as possible, by buying commercial honey you are directly funding the continuation of this practice.
The other point I see mentioned quite a bit is that the bees actually need the honey – it is their main food source and when winter comes it is all they have to survive on. Bees need the honey to survive, we don’t. So why eat something we don’t need, especially when there are so many vegan options out there that do the same job such as maple syrup and agave syrup, and in many cases are also cheaper than the honey on sale.
But how does home grown honey differ?
The largest plus of a person keeping their own bees and therefore being able to harvest their own honey is that they would know exactly what is being done to the bees. There would be no (or at least very little) concern over exploitation, as the bee keeper would only take what they wanted and would always ensure that the health of the hive came first. At least, that would be my thinking should I ever keep my own bees. I would know exactly how healthy the hive was, how much honey was produced and if I wanted to take a little amount for myself I would make sure that the hive always had enough honey in the combs to ensure a healthy winter.
The scale of honey harvesting would also be far smaller. One person can only eat so much honey, and even if they did gift it/sell it to friends or family this would be no where near the same scale as a commercial enterprise. 10 jars (let’s say) of honey is barely a drop compared to the hundreds of thousands of jars that are produced every day by a commercial company. Let’s also assume that a jar of honey would last a family a month – twelve jars or honey a year for one person is still a tiny amount compared to the commercial production line which needs to make millions a year.
There is also a very slim chance of a private person selling honey for a profit. Sure they may want to get rid of some excess honey and make a little bit of money on the side but again, if we assume it is only being sold to friends and family this figure is still likely to be around £100 a year (assuming they sell one jar for £2-£5 to maybe 10 people once a month for a year) which is nothing compared to the thousands (if not millions) of profit made by some commercial brands.
Linking to all of the above, you would assume that someone who does keep their own bees doesn’t do it simply so they have free honey: beekeeper doesn’t appear to be the most relaxing of past times and you would expect that someone who would be interested in keeping bees would do so because they have a general interests in the bees themselves. Yes the honey is nice, but they much more enjoy seeing the hive grow and change and develop over time, seeing how the bees interact with one another, and also perhaps feeling like they are playing their part in helping to protect the best pollinator around. Bees are already in great danger from commercial grade pesticides and farming practices, and without bees many flowers and crops would cease to exist without the required pollination taking place. There are many campaigns ongoing to help bring the pollinators back and by keeping a hive, it may help someone feel like they can protect at least this hive from any future troubles.
Would I personally eat home grown honey?
Ok so I don’t actually like honey. I don’t really like syrup either. If I want to add something sweet to my porridge or pancakes or oats, I will usually go for fruit or (arguably the most unhealthy option out of everything) a literal spoonful of granulated sugar. So I have really gone most of my life never eating honey. However I do try to avoid it as much as I can when it comes to premade packages, such as breakfast bars or granola, where honey is so regularly used as a healthier sugar source.
But I think that even if I did keep my own bees, I would still be very reluctant to eat the honey. I would always want to ensure that my hive was healthy and had enough honey to keep them fit and healthy so I wouldn’t really want to take that away from them, especially for a product that I wouldn’t normally eat otherwise. Now perhaps I would sometimes take some honey to gift to a friend or family member for their birthday or Christmas, but again this would be maybe 4 jars a year? A tiny amount in the grand scheme of things and again I would only even consider it if I knew that my hive had more than enough to keep them healthy.
As with everything I do, my main concern is always the animals. Everything I do, I do for them. Sure the environmental impact and sustainability aspect is always a plus, but the animals are always at the root of any decision I make: If an animal had to suffer or be disturbed to get this product to me, then I don’t want it.