Once I became a vegan, I eliminated all animal products and by-products from my diet and lifestyle. For most, if not all vegans, veganism isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle. Along with that comes the intention to “do no harm” to any living creature. Sure, we don’t live in a vegan world, but part of living involves death. Countless creatures, big and small, die daily due to human interventions. Walking outside may cause the inevitable end of ants and small bugs. Eating vegetables kills insects because most conventional farmers spray their plants to kill any unwanted pests. So long story short, no vegan is perfect.
With that being said, honey is one of those touchy topics among vegans that I have found interesting. Sure, we don’t need honey. But what harm is it doing to the animals? When I looked into it, I found the harm, and the arguments against consuming honey. While honey is a natural product that honey bees create with or without humans, harvesting honey conventionally includes practices that disregard the precious lives of the bees and their colonies. With consumer demand comes the toll on honey bees that often leads to mistreatment and disregard.
I think there’s a weird gray area in the vegan community when it comes to the difference between supposedly harmless backyard farmers and big-ag farmers. Some vegans think eating eggs is okay when the eggs come from chickens in their backyard that are well taken care of. Some vegans think eating honey from small, sustainable beekeepers is okay. It’s all based on decisions, and veganism has spectrums. Whether we like it or not.
After years of consuming boba drinks, I discovered, much to my dismay, that I had been consuming honey. Most places coat their tapioca balls in honey, and I never found out until years later. It was my fault for having the wrong assumption, but with knowledge comes power. That got me thinking about honey and how I felt consuming it. Some of my vegan friends choose to eat honey because they don’t see their choice as unethical. I continued to do research on this subject to find answers. But the answers truly came to me after I met with some “beegans.”
Beegans is the word to label vegans who consume honey. I wasn’t aware that this was even a thing until I met beegans in Hawaii. I learned so much about bee culture and consciously harvesting honey. One company, Bee Boys, based on the Big Island of Hawaii supports a unique approach to this business. They don’t advertise that they are vegan anywhere on their website or social media, but I feel that it’s because of the stigma surrounding vegans who eat honey. Getting to know them and their story opened my eyes to a whole new side of respectable beekeeping.
“At Bee Boys, we practice regenerative beekeeping methods, listening to the bees’ needs and desires. Working with the animate forces in nature allows the colony to guide us. As life regenerates, we become whole and healthy again.”
Some of these regenerative beekeeping practices include: no “treatments” or drugging; letting bees keep their own queen; allowing swarming; no feeding sugar to bees; or moving bees to pollinate orchards or nectar sources. Basically, it revolves around letting bees behave as naturally as possible.
One of my other “beegan” friends explained this to me in depth by sharing that her decision to consume honey. For her, it ultimately came down to sitting in meditation with the bees and asking them how they felt about her eating their honey. They told her that they didn’t mind and actually liked when humans helped them harvest their gifts. To some, that information may be too alternative to believe, but for others, it’s their reality.
For me personally, I never felt unethical about eating honey. What I did feel was shame. Potential shame I feared would come from a once loving community of people who now claim that I can’t be vegan because I consume honey. Speaking of bees, hive mind is a thing, even with humans. Yet, my veganism may be different than others, and that’s okay. I choose to be happy with my choices, despite the collective mind of the vegan community. I am at peace with the decisions I make based on my own relationship with the animal kingdom.
It all comes down to decisions based on one’s own feelings. I have decided to consume honey in a conscious way and I still call myself a vegan. As an empath, I also lean on animals and their messages. Beforehand, I never felt I was doing harm to bees when I consumed honey. But when I connected with them, I felt supported in my decision. As the Bee Boys say, “Accepting the bees’ message inspires the way we do business and walk through life.” Bees have a lot to teach us.
We can all live in harmony with animals and choose different lifestyles. Regenerative beekeeping is a different way of doing things that works with nature, rather than against it. We have a responsibility to coexist with animals, and I believe we can still do that with the intention not to harm. Veganism is a label, yet we are not our labels. Choose a lifestyle that works for you, without the static of everyone else telling you what is wrong or right. Trust your instincts, and when in doubt, communicate with the animals themselves and see what they have to say.
Related: DIY Vegan Honey
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