By Ghanim al-Sulaiti
As a long-time vegan and owner of several vegan businesses, I’m often asked by friends, colleagues, followers and readers about which foods are vegan, or if it’s ok to eat certain foods. It’s why I wanted to dedicate this week’s column to clearing up the truth about honey production, and the Bee Crises. Fact: the idea that you can obtain honey without harming bees is a myth. If you’re buying honey, you cannot pretend that it comes naturally from wild hives or that the bees are making it happily and sustainably. Honey isn’t vegan because, in order to obtain it, humans exploit bees.
Bees create honey to store the food that the hive needs to survive over winter, when there are no flowers around. If we eat honey, we are taking their food. When we take that honey, either the hive dies…or you have to feed the bees artificially, with sugar, in order to keep them alive.
In fact, hives are routinely burned after the honey is harvested, because that’s cheaper than feeding them. It’s animal abuse, and proves that there is nothing ethical about ‘honey business’.
Beekeepers keep bees in artificial conditions rather than their natural beehives, and then take the honey from them for supermarkets and stores. While we have grown up associating bees with honey, and somehow assuming that the honey belongs to us —it’s time we all face the reality that bees create their honey for a very specific reason – it’s their sole food source through the cold winter months.
Honey provides essential nutrients to bees, and is vital to the wellbeing of every hive. And yet, our human-forced operation to keep bees supplying honey for us has led to an extremely damaging result. Millions of bees are dying off, threatening our environment and our food supply. We rely on bees to pollinate everything from almonds to fresh fruit. If they are unable to pollinate…what happens? It’s simple: No bees, no food.
In recent years, beekeepers report they’re losing on average 30% of all honeybee colonies each winter. They’re disappearing at a faster rate than ever before, meaning we should all do our bit to act on the crises.
Planting flowers, including sunflowers, lavender, and flowering cactus, will provide bees with nectar and pollen. Even growing a few little herbs; such as mint, parsley, and oregano — on a windowsill or balcony can help feed bees. (And in turn, they help us actually keep a plant alive)
We must let bees keep their honey. They need it for nourishment more than humans need it for flavouring. Vegan, ethical honey alternatives include agave nectar, maple syrup, and more. Agave nectar comes from the agave plant, and is slightly sweeter and thinner than honey. Maple syrup is made from the sap of sugar, black or red maple trees. These trees grow in colder climates – they store starch in their roots during winter, which turns into sugar and rises up to be harvested as sap in the spring.
When left alone, bees are natural human-helpers. Saving them also means saving ourselves, and our planets environment, plant-based foods and habitats.
The author is an expert in vegan wellbeing and health. Instagram handle: @Ghanim92
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