Mo Honey, Mo Problems?

Honey is great right. It soothes coughs, it treats wounds, relieves allergies and it almost never expires. But is honey production hurting bees and why can it be considered unethical? We need bees to pollinate plants but as their numbers fall how can we help to ensure their survival.

This blog will be focussing on the question- is eating honey ethical? You can decide for yourself!

Honey is bee vomit. Yes. Bee vomit. Why is bee vomit so precious to bees as well as humans? 

Bees store honey for nutrition during cold weather. “22,700 bees are required to fill a single jar of honey.” So it’s clear why it can be considered as common thievery when we consume honey. After all if you spent all summer making enough food to get by in winter, you’d be pissed if someone else decided they’re entitled to it.

Our relationship with bees, as it is with almost everything else on the planet on a mass scale, is unjust and not tayyib. Just as other animals are factory farmed, so are bees.

  • Factory farms pump bees with antibiotics whether the bees are sick or not. This is to prevent toxins from entering. Antibiotics contribute to immune system deficiencies and make bees resistant to pests and diseases. 
  • Queen Bees are artificially inseminated to breed better. This causes the death of drones who naturally impregnate the Queen.
  • Bees have been manipulated to be bigger than they used to be 100 years ago
  • A study done by food safety news found that ¾ of the 60 jars of honey were counterfeit and contained no bee pollen
  • Swarming (which is when the hive divides after the birth of a new queen) is avoided because it can cause honey production to decline. So beekeepers clip the wings of the queen, kill and replace older queen after just one or two years or confine a queen who is trying to begin a swarm.

But there is something to be said about a give and take relationship with bees. There are less than 200,000 hives in the UK and if this reduces any further sustainable food production would be affected. It is argued that the only reasons we have any bees at all is because of beekeepers.

Organic honey production can create a balanced human bee relationship. For example beekeepers move bees to areas that they can thrive at key times of the year. Without beekeepers there would be no bees because of parasitic mite infestation. Some people actually only take up bee keeping to beneficially impact the environment, and only take any surplus amount of honey. It’s also argued that beekeepers feed bees where they would have otherwise starved.

So what can you do to ensure you are making the most compassionate decision when it comes to honey?

Buy locally where you know exactly what is going down

Want to avoid Honey all together? What are the alternatives:

  • Agave nectar
  • Rice syrup
  • Molasses
  • Barley malt
  • Maple syrup
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit concentrates

Further Reading

https://www.omlet.co.uk/guide/bees/honey_and_wax/a_jar_of_honey/
http://www.yourdailyvegan.com/vegan-guides/is-honey-vegan/ 
https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/animals-used-food-factsheets/honey-factory-farmed-bees/
https://www.lovefood.com/news/57559/whats-in-it-for-the-bees–is-it-ethical-to-eat-honey
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/jun/17/ethical-living-eating-honey-lucy-siegle

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