27 February, 2008

The Environmental Problem With Honey

The problem with honey is not that it's not raw. The problem with honey is not that it's not organic. The problem with honey is not that it's fair trade.

The problem with honey is not that we're doing it wrong. The problem with honey is that it's honey.

See, a lot of so-called raw "vegans" don't know this, but the problem is honey itself. The problem with Colony Collapse Disorder is just one in a long string of problems with the honey industry, starting with the idea that other creatures on Earth are ours to do with as we wish. (That's speciesism, dear, and real vegans are against that shit, sorry to pull the Real Vegan stuff with you - but it's not just a diet. It's ethics.) The next problem came when we started domesticating bees, historically a sign that things are gonna go real bad real soon. And once we started domesticating bees, like farmed salmon, we began crowding out - environmentally, food-wise or just in terms of space - the native bees. This is always a dangerous precedent: once you have a breed of "good ____ producers", you tend to use that exclusively, and so do all your neighbors, until finally you have very little diversity.

You can see where this is going, right? Listen to me: the reason that CCD is happening at all is because humans commercialised bees in the first place, and then continued doing it. To me, it's perfectly natural that CCD would occur, given that commercial beekeepers usually take all the honey, or most of it, and then feed the bees on sugar water over the winter. (They also tend to kill off most of the bees during this time, too. And we were saying that honey was vegan how... ?) See, if humans are take this supposedly "life-giving" honey, then the bees are not getting it, they're getting an inferior substance to the stuff that they have been "designed" to produce for themselves throughout millions and millions of years. I honestly wonder how we could have done a better job of precipitating CCD.

So yeah, dudes. It's your fault that we have CCD. Stop eating honey, because eating "raw, organic, fair trade" honey is NOT going to make the problem go away - it'll only make it worse!

And a note for the health nuts (and by "nuts" I mean actually insane, because their logical faculties clearly have been bamboozled by the nutzoid but highly charismatic David Wolfe):

Yes, honey is full of digestive enzymes. They're bee enzymes, not human enzymes. Cow enzymes would probably be as useful to us as bee enzymes, you know. (Yeah, I'm not actually promoting eating cow vomit, I'm just pointing out that little logical fallacy, there.)

So, short answer: when you eat honey, you destroy the environment as well as bees' lives and humans' claim to being a species that can make moral decisions.


  1. Couldn't agree more. Who knows why we humans have this strong tendency to take things for granted and even make them ours. Besides, with so many fantastic alternatives to honey, like malt-extract and maple syrup, who needs honey?

  2. Don't forget raw agave syrup. =]

  3. Like Gio said - why would you want honey when there's maple syrup?

  4. It's my birthday! I just got a HUGE jug of rice honey as a gift from my partner. It's called "Just like honey rice syrup" by Suzanne's Specialties and he got it shipped in. It's very convincing, it really does taste just like honey. Yay for me! I used to be a honey eating vegan beause I didn't know anything about it until my new partner taught me about the hive burning and the queen raping, etc, etc. I used honey every day. I haven't done so for years now. But now I can use fake honey and also offer it to our omnivore guests when they have tea. Good opportunity to explain why honey is so cruel to bees. DG

    1. YES. Thank you, i was hoping someone would have a honey-flavored alternative :). Vegan honey mustard for my Chik'n...

  5. I thought it was about time I read up on this as I am pretty much a vegan now...

    I generally avoid sugar (though it is practically impossible to do this completely, well, if you drink alcohol anyway), not because of the whole 'it contains bone char' thing but simply because it's so incredibly inefficient and destructive, not to mention snakes are burnt to death when they farm it...

    So I figured on the odd occasion I would use a good quality organic honey instead as a substitute (an organic African 'forest honey' I am very fond of), A honey bees to fertilize various plants and crops, and, I thought, as long as it comes from a (supposedly) well-kept hive then what's the problem?

    But I guess it is still exploitation, and any problems with a decline in honey bee population and organization is down to us, not them...and finding out that they are just fed sugar as a substitute anyway does not really make it such an eco-friendly alternative...I have heard about 'date sugar' - not sure how easy this is to get hold of, but makes sense to go for natural plant/fruit sugars on the odd occasion I need to sweeten something I guess...

    Here is the site for the organic forest honey though, which I will still eat, as it is from non-sugar fed wild bees that are well kept, and they leave honey for the bees, so seems like the ideal situation of man working with and respecting nature rather than just exploiting and taking:


  6. agave is not any better for the environment than honey, you all seem confused on this point. the problem being that agave is grown in warm weather and tropical areas, meaning for the vast majority of us it is not sourced locally, meaning more green hour gases. if you're going vegan for envrionmental reasons i applaud you, but please do you research and don't just assume that vegan foods are good for the environment.

  7. not all honey is bad, some farmers keep bees as natural pollinators, which is good for the environment.

  8. How about a "fair trade" arrangement with the hive? Providing a hive 20 acres of land overgrown with local wild perennial and seasonal flowers to supply them with nectar in exchange for a gallon/yr of honey.

  9. Okay #1 there is no "ethical" way to strip an animal of its rights any time you take what they produce for themselves it's unethical and wrong and #2 how can you say you care about the world when you support a business that is furthering the declining bee numbers WHEN THEY GO SO DO WE ☠

  10. There are some bee keepers that operate unethically, but there are many who keep bees in ethical ways, and care very much for them. I have no idea where you got the information that the bees are killed over-winter. I'm a beekeeper, and I can tell you that the last thing a beekeeper wants is to lose a hive. I have 3 hives, and I am learning how to work with the bees to ensure their health and their survival. A hive produces a huge surplus of honey, because bees need to produce. A good beekeeper never takes off more honey than the excess, and always leaves plenty (60 lbs) of honey within the hive for the bees to consume over the winter. What you have spoken of and have portrayed as the norm, is actually the worst of beekeeping. I agree, that kind of mismanagement needs to stop. The bulk of beekeepers do not operate that way, for the sake of the bees, and for their businesses. It's okay if you don't think we have the right to take any honey off of the hive; we can agree to disagree. I believe that as long as there is respect and a learning-attitude when it comes to beekeeping, it is a worthy pursuit. I also have planted plenty of wildflowers in my 3 acres, and am sowing white clover into the grass so that wild pollinators have plenty of sources of food.