Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Do you have questions about being vegan? Send them to Jo using this easy form. She would be happy to address your individual concerns as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy, practical applications, and living compassionately. Jo cannot respond to questions about nutrition or answer questions that have already been addressed in the Archives

Jo will make every attempt to answer each question personally, however, due to her schedule, this may not be possible. If a reply is forthcoming, it could take up to a few weeks, so please be patient. It is also possible that your question will be answered directly in the "Ask Jo!" column rather than an individual response.

If you'd like to view previous questions Jo has answered, visit the Ask Jo! Archives.

Is Honey Vegan?

question.gif - 1.4 K I do not consume dairy, eggs, meat, gelatin, etc. However, I would not call myself a vegan. See, I still eat honey. What I would like to know is what cruelty is being forced upon honeybees. Why do vegans not consume honey? I made my decision to not support any industry that exploits animals. In what way are honeybees being exploited? Couldn't one say that eating honey is better than eating sugar because sugarcane workers often suffer from exploitive and abusive working conditions?

answer.gif - 1.3 K Regardless of how careful we are, it is impossible to live a totally harm-free life. All animate sentient beings inflict some form of injury or death to others simply by their existence. Humans displace or destroy large and small life forms whenever we erect buildings, plant seeds, dig crops, burn wood, fly airplanes, drive cars, operate factories, walk on grass, or bat our eyes. This is simply an aspect of being alive.

The difference between vegans and nonvegans, however, is the element of intent. Vegans consciously strive to do no harm to any sentient life, including insects. This does not mean that vegans do not hurt others inadvertently, but that it is never their aim to do so.

Honey is made from sucrose-rich flower nectar that is collected by honeybees and then regurgitated back and forth among them until it is partially digested. After the final regurgitation, the bees fan the substance with their wings until it is cool and thick. This mixture, which we call honey (which is essentially bee vomit), is then stored in the cells of the bees' hive and used as their sole source of nutrition in cold weather and other times when alternative food sources are not available. During the collection of flower nectar, the bees also pollinate plants. This is part of the natural process of life and is necessary and unavoidable. Even though humans inadvertently benefit, the bees do not pollinate plants in order to serve human needs; it is simply a secondary aspect of their nectar collecting. The honey that bees produce is stored in their hives for their own purposes. When humans remove honey from the hive, they take something that is not rightfully theirs.

To collect honey, beekeepers must temporarily remove a number of the bees from their home. During the course of bee management and honey collection, even the most careful beekeeper cannot avoid inadvertently injuring, squashing, or otherwise killing some of the bees. Other commodities may be taken from the hive as well, including beeswax, honeycomb, pollen, propolis, and royal jelly.

Bees are not harmed by the process of pollination -- it is something they would do whether or not humans were involved or reaped any profit. If one were to stretch the point, using honey could, in a broad sense, be considered analogous to dairying. Furthermore, there is no reason to take honey from bees other than to sell it. Utilizing bees to pollinate crops in no way necessitates ravaging their hive.

Although the issue of honey is not deemed the most pressing concern of many vegans, honey is nevertheless considered an animal product. Because there are numerous alternatives to honey, from a vegan perspective there is no justifiable rationale for using it. Furthermore, the vegan position on honey is definitive. Honey was prohibited for use by vegans according to the 1944 manifesto of the British Vegan Society (veganism's founding organization), a position consistent with the requirement for full (vegan) membership in the American Vegan Society since its inception in 1960.

Sweeteners are not necessary for human health. There are virtually no essential nutrients (in fact, there are hardly any nutrients at all) in sweeteners, so our use of them is purely for personal pleasure. Although the labor force is typically exploited on sugar plantations, even humans with minimal choices have far more options than the honeybees. Humans can live quite well without sugar or honey. As a rule, extensive use of sweeteners is found only in affluent societies. If vegans want to indulge in sweets, there are many substitutes available: organic, unbleached cane sugar (somewhat kinder to the environment, but not necessarily better for the workers); beet sugar; maple sugar; maple syrup; agave syrup; concentrated fruit syrups; rice syrup; barley malt; and sorghum syrup, among others. We do not need to choose between exploiting humans or bees in order to satisfy our sweet tooth. Concerned vegans can avoid harming either by eliminating sweets from their diet or by choosing compassionate alternatives.




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