Honey isn’t vegan. Here’s why

On Tuesday we published an article that included reference to another person in the health food industry not comprehending honey is non-vegan. Of course honey isn’t vegan. Here’s a short explanation.


What is honey?

  • The seven species of honey bee collect flower nectar for the sugar rich mixture of nutrients that the nectar contains
  • Honey bees can visit as many as 1500 flowers just to fill its honey stomach once
  • Honey bees then repeatedly ingest and regurgitate the nectar
  • Enzymes and stomach acid inside honey bees cause the nectar to be converted to honey during this process
  • The honey is then placed in unsealed honeycomb cells
  • Honey bees then in a team effort flutter their wings so the fanning action evaporates some of the water from the honey
  • After the honey reaches required concentration the honey bees seal the honeycomb cell with wax
  • The stored honey is then later used by honey bees as a food source when other food sources are unavailable

Bee Bees Farming Beehive Honey Beekeeping Apiary

Human involvement:-

  • Queen honey bees often have their wings clipped to prevent the colony leaving for elsewhere
  • Importing different honey bee species propagates the spread of disease. These diseases then spread to other pollinators in the ecosystem with potentially devastating risks to the environment
  • Selective breeding depletes the honey bee gene pool. The depleted gene pool diminishes  resistance to large scale die offs (e.g. from disease)
  • When beekeepers collect honey from a honey bee hive they replace the honey with a cheap substitute sugar
  • This substitute does not have the nutrients vital to honey bees that the bees worked so hard to produce before
  • Honey bees thus work themselves to exhaustion looking to replenish the stolen honey
  • In trying to defend the honey during its removal some honey bees attempt to sting the farmer. This valiant and utterly selfless defensive action is a suicide mission. After using its sting once a honey bee promptly dies
  • Many hives are culled post harvesting in the name of cost efficiency
  • Ever increasing numbers of mass farmed honey bees compete against other nectar foragers. This reduces the numbers of other species including non-honey bees


(Wing clipping. Pic sourced from veganpeace.com)

The word vegan is widely attributed to first being coined by a small team of people involving Donald Watson. Watson and this group set up the Vegan Society in 1944. It thus seems pretty reasonable to regard the Vegan Society definition as the legitimate definition of what veganism means. The Vegan Society define veganism as:-

  • A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude —as far as is possible and practicable — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

So to pick out the key parts of that definition with regard to honey:-

  • “exclude —as far as is possible and practicable — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food”
  • “In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals”

So contrasting the above points re honey against the most honey relevant parts of the definition of veganism:-

  • How can the above summary of activities not be seen as exploitation of and cruelty to honey bees?
  • How can honey not be seen as a product derived wholly or partly from animals?

The honey industry is one that is underpinned by abuse, cruelty, exploitation and violence to other creatures. That culture of exploitation is:-

  • financially supported each time someone buys honey
  • endorsed in society each time someone consumes honey

This further endorses the exploitative culture already engendered in society when someone buys or consumes other animal derived products (e.g. milk, eggs, fish, leather, wool etc). That endorsed psyche of exploitation and cruelty then re-appears elsewhere in society such as in violence against women.


An alert reader was in touch to ask what is the name for someone who includes honey as the only animal product in their diet. From a quick look on the web there doesn’t appear to be such a term in existence (please send an update in if you know differently). Thus how about this as a suggestion?

  • A vegetarian who eats milk products is known as a lacto vegetarian (from the Latin word for milk, lact)
  • A vegetarian who eats egg products is known as an ovo vegetarian (from the Latin word for egg, ovo)
  • A vegetarian who eats honey products could be known as a mel vegetarian (from the Latin word for honey, mel)

Whatever the correct term is for a honey eating vegetarian, that term isn’t vegan. Similarly all other bee products such as beeswax and royal jelly are not vegan either.








6 thoughts on “Honey isn’t vegan. Here’s why

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