Should Vegans Avoid Honey?

In a world of flexitarians and pescatarians, ba-curious vegetarians (who consume bacon but no other kinds of meat), and all the other not-quite-committed vegetarians who have yet to come up with labels for themselves, it’s not surprising that some vegans are looking for ways to loosen up their avoidance of animal products. In a recent story for Slate, Daniel Engber suggests that some lax vegans might be willing to consume honey, on the grounds that bees might not mind sharing it with humans. But staunch vegans argue that beekeeping is cruel and exploitative (though incredibly delicious). Here’s why:

Queens are imprisoned in certain parts of the hive, while colonies are split to increase production and sprinkled with prophylactic antibiotics. In the meantime, keepers control the animals by pumping their hives full of smoke, which masks the scent of their alarm pheromones and keeps them from defending their honey stores.

Granted, this doesn’t seem too cruel compared to the factory farming of noninsects, but some animal rights activists support all creatures equally. Still, even the most serious vegans are eating foods produced by commercial bees—the article goes on to list an assortment of fruits and vegetables that are pollinated by these arguably enslaved insects.

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