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Do Vegans Eat Honey? Everything Vegans Need to Know About Honey

Do vegans eat honey - honey dripping

Last updated on December 4th, 2023

As a vegan, deciding what to eat and what not to eat, can seem challenging to start with, but once you understand, the decision actually becomes quite easy.

Does it exploit or cause any harm to animals? If the answer is yes, that’s usually a red flag for vegans and they tend to avoid it.

However, here’s where the tricky part starts. Sometimes it’s hard to know what exploits or causes harm to animals. Often you’ll buy something in the supermarket and without knowing every step that took place to get the item to the shelf, it can seem pretty innocent and harmless.

Is Honey Vegan? – Do Vegans Eat Honey?

Is honey vegan? The simple fact is, no, honey is not vegan. But some vegans choose to eat it (“doesn’t that mean they’re not real vegans?” I hear some of you say, that’s a different debate. And to be honest, I’ll worry about my decisions and I’ll let other vegans worry about their own).

Anyway back to it, factually, honey is not suitable for vegans, But to understand why, we need to understand how honey is made.

Honey and honeycomb

How is Honey Made? And Why isn’t Honey Vegan?

Bees collect nectar from flowers and it goes into their ‘honey stomach’. This is a second, separate stomach where enzymes break down the nectar and turn it into honey. They return to the hive and this is then regurgitated and chewed up by ‘house bees’. This is when the honey gets stored inside the honeycomb. 

Each bee produces roughly a twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime! Poor guys, it sounds like they are working pretty hard!

Why do Bees Make Honey?

Bees in a flower - Do vegans eat honey

Bees make honey for themselves. They use it as their energy source and without an energy source, like all living things, they would not survive.

Why Vegans Don’t Eat Honey?

Vegans don’t eat honey because it’s a product that comes from an animal, and that’s enough in itself.

It’s not just part of nature for bees to provide honey for people, as some may believe. Bees don’t simply offer their honey up for people to consume, they want it themselves, it’s their source of energy.

Why would beekeepers need to wear full-body protective suits if bees weren’t too bothered?

Think about how many bees you’ve seen in your life, and how many times have you been stung by them? Not many? That’s because they only sting as a last resort. Having their honey taken away must be serious if they’re willing to sting for it.

Beekeeper steaming bees - Do vegans eat honey

Is Eating Honey Good for Bees?

Without going into extensive detail about how consuming honey has a negative impact on both bees and the planet here’s a short summary.

Bees work exhaustively hard all their lives to make their honey. And in conventional beekeeping, just before the bees settle down for the winter with their reserves the beekeepers smoke out the hive and take the honey. It’s then replaced with a sugary liquid that doesn’t meet the bee’s needs.

Queen bees, if left alone, can live up to 5 years, but because at a certain stage, there’s a fear they might leave the hive and cause disruption to honey production, they’re either trapped inside the hive by having their wings clipped or killed and replaced with a new queen.

This leads to the breeding and selling of queen bees. Seems like a mad idea, but it’s happening. According to Peta – In 2020, 21,000 queen bees were imported into Great Britain.

Is Honey Good for the Environment?

Do vegans eat honey

Honey bees make honey, they are not good pollinators. So, when we’re told bees and honey are good for the planet, the story is being twisted. Bees are essential but it’s not honey bees that do the pollinating, it’s bumblebees, carpenter bees and mining bees.

It’s common for diseases to spread in conventional beekeeping hives and these honey bees can pass diseases to other pollinating bees. This has an obvious impact on nature’s balance.

The huge quantities of honey bees that are being bred have an effect on the populations of other nectar-feeding insects, including other bees. Peta says that thirteen bee species have gone extinct since the 1900s, and 35 more are under threat of extinction.

Having a world full of honey bees will not help us. They can not do the job the planet needs.

Is Honey Cruel to Bees?

As mentioned above, yes, in most cases and especially in conventional beekeeping, the process of getting honey is cruel to the queen bee and all the bees in the hive.

Swarm of bees - Is honey good foe vegans

Can You Eat Honey if You’re Vegan?

I’m not the label police, nor is any other vegan. I don’t believe it’s our job to judge other vegans. However, if someone follows every other element of veganism but still eats honey then technically they don’t fit the definition of veganism.

I didn’t really get the problem with eating honey until I did some research, now it’s as clear as day to me. But up until then, I was a honey-eating ‘vegan’.
If someone is unsure about whether something is vegan-friendly or not, I’d suggest they do some research to learn all about it. Then decide if they feel it’s right or not.

Are There Vegans Who Eat Honey?

Yes, there are people who follow a vegan lifestyle but still include honey in their diet. There are some items that seem obvious to vegans that they should avoid, however, honey seems to create a divide in the vegan community.

My personal opinion is that, while I’d love to be able to create an entirely vegan world overnight, I know that’s not possible so rather than worrying about the people that are 95% of the way there, I’d rather worry about people who feel factory farming is acceptable and try to show them the truth.

Is Manuka Honey Vegan?

No, manuka honey is not vegan-friendly. It’s made in a similar way to regular honey. The main difference is that the bees that make manuka honey feed on the manuka plant which is native to New Zealand. But they are still bees and their honey is still taken away,

Is Balanced Beekeeping or Natural Beekeeping Vegan?

Vegans typically follow the idea that animals are not there for us to profit from, so taking honey from bees and selling it simply doesn’t match that idea.

Balanced beekeeping involves less interference from the beekeeper and where possible they’re left to work in a more natural way. However, the job of keeping bees isn’t straight forward and there will still be times the beekeeper will need to step it. And while the bees are left with some of their honey, I don’t believe that we should decide how much of their own honey bees can keep.

So, even this does not offer the life nature intended. Take a look here to learn more about balanced beekeeping.

While natural or balanced beekeeping certainly does seem to cause less harm to bees it’s still not completely harmless and therefore it’s not vegan.

Is Honey Sourced Locally?

Bees in honeycomb - Is honey vegan friendly

Many people believe that honey is something we source locally. But in most cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In 2021 imports of natural honey were valued at approximately 97.8 million British pounds. Most of this honey is imported from China and Turkey, so eating local honey is not something most of us do.

What are the Best Vegan Substitutes for Honey?

I’m glad to say that if you choose to avoid honey it doesn’t mean you need to completely miss out. There are so many vegan options out there. Here are some vegan substitutes for honey:

  • Agave Nectar
  • Maple Syrup
  • Barley Malt Syrup
  • Date Syrup
  • Bee-Free Honee
  • Dandelion Syrup

Conclusion – Do vegans eat honey?

Honey and honeycomb

So, I hope that answers the question ‘Do vegans eat honey?’. The most straightforward answer is no, vegans don’t eat honey. And now you’ve read all about it hopefully you’ll understand why.

Want to know about why some foods aren’t vegan-friendly check out Is Cheese Vegan? The new vegan’s guide to cheese and Can Vegans Eat Chocolate?

Meet the Author

Author Bio - Sinead OCarroll - The Wondering Wandering Vegan

Meet Sinead O’Carroll: Vegan explorer, sustainability advocate and the founder of The Wondering Wandering Vegan. Embracing veganism since 2018 and vegetarianism since 2005, Sinead is armed with a Vegan Health, Nutrition and Lifestyle qualification, and is on a mission to share her passion for cruelty-free living. 

With a taste for adventure and a heart for eco-conscious choices, she’s here to prove that vegans never miss out on flavour, fun or style. Join her in enjoying the delights of a vegan-friendly world! 🌱✈️🌍
Want to know more? Check out Sinead’s About page here.

Follow me on Instagram to see all the delicious vegan food I find, the vegan and cruelty-free products I use and what I get up to as a travelling vegan.

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