30 Apr 2015

Tumblr User Says "Vegans Should Eat Honey"

I don't know much about honey production. I don't know much about honey at all, because it's never really been included in my diet. I don't eat honey for two reasons: one, because it's an animal product, and I'm against the use of animal products; and two, because it tastes absolutely disgusting. I've never enjoyed eating honey.

What I do know is that, in general, honey isn't considered vegan. Avoiding animal products is a very important part of the vegan lifestyle, and honey, by definition, is an animal product. In that sense, it's not vegan and vegans shouldn't consume it.

But sometimes we have to look deeper. We have to think logically and practically about how to stop harming animals. Is it possible that honey production could be saving the bees rather than hurting them?

That's what Tumblr user itslitt3red (who is, according to their Tumblr page, vegan) has suggested. Here's a screenshot of the post in question, if you're interested:

If you can't read the text in the screenshot, here's a transcript:

"As I'm sure most people know by now, bees are disappearing at alarming rates. Simply put, our entire species could not survive without them. This is due to a syndrome called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Many vegans opt to use agave nectar instead of honey, because agave nectar is plant based. BUt harvesting of agave nectar is threatening the existence of two other endangered species: Mexican long-nosed bats (who live strictly off of nectars - primarily agave nectar) and the Jaguarundi (a solitary feline who basically looks like a love child between a jungle cat and a ferret). Approximately 113,126 acres of these animals' habitat were destroyed from 1991 to 2000, and more has been destroyed since.

On the other hand, beekeepers are essential to increasing bee population. They monitor the bees' health and help protect them from dangerous parasites and pesticides that are suspected to cause CCD. In addition, well-kept bees never need to use the amount of honey they produce; honey is made by the bees to consume only when there is not enough food for them outside the hive. In the care of a good beekeeper, this will only happen during the winter months, and the keeper will leave enough honey for the bees to thrive until it's spring again.

It's best to buy local, organic honey if at all possible. Local beekeepers will not use dangerous factory-farming methods, and it helps maintain your local bee population! If you want to help bees in a more active way than buying local honey, you can plant a bee garden or even become a small-scale beekeeper! (I don't have a link for this, it's best to check out local resources. Maybe even ask the person selling honey at your farmer's market!)"

It's a long piece of text, but it's worth reading. I found the arguments in this post interesting, but I wasn't really sure what to think because I know very little about honey production and beekeeping. This post outlines a variety of possible benefits of beekeeping but doesn't touch on any possible drawbacks. That's why I enlisted my Facebook page's audience to find out more.

My Facebook audience gave their educated opinions on this issue and I compiled their comments. In this post, I'll give a summary of opinions from both sides of the fence, allowing you to make your own decision about whether or not vegans should eat honey.

The responses from my Facebook audience were divided - some agreed entirely, some disagreed entirely, and some both agreed and disagreed with aspects of itslittl3red's post.

Those who disagreed with itslittl3red offered a variety of different arguments. The most popular comment, offered by Cem, said that veganism is about rejecting the commodity status of animals. In Cem's eyes, this is an standard of veganism that shouldn't be compromised under any circumstances. To quote them directly: "Sustainability is not a vegan concern since it's only about ethics." 

Several other commenters appeared to agree with Cem's arguments. Debby, for example, noted that vegans don't use or harm animals unless it's necessary - honey bees included. Samuel offered a similar yet harsher argument, stating that bees are raped, gassed and killed in honey production.

Chelsea offers an interesting perspective: "Honey bees are not native to the U.S. anyway, and they compete with native pollinators (who are up to 2-3 times more efficient at pollinating), which is one more reason why the honey industry shouldn't be supported." To back up this claim, Chelsea cited this link,

Another reply to my Facebook post offered an opposing perspective. Cheyenne, who buys raw, local honey from a beekeeper, has no ethical hangups with this form of honey production. Cheyenne supports a local beekeeper and is happy with the way they treat their bees. This contrasts with Cem's argument which suggested that honey should never be used, regardless of how well the bees are treated.

"All things considered, honey is not vegan - at least not by definition."

Jane, who misses the taste of honey but doesn't eat it, sees honey as what it fundamentally is: bee vomit! Jane has a hive in their garden, but won't take any honey from the hive for one main reason. To quote Jane: "The bees aren't making it for me." Jane's comment reiterates what Cem said about rejecting the commodity status of animals (I should add veganism, as defined by Wikipedia, is indeed about rejecting the commodity status of animals - but is there more to it than this?).

Another commenter, Rhiannon, thinks itslitt3red has some valid points. They suggest a Netflix documentary called Vanishing of the Bees (2009), which details the sudden disappearance of honey bees from beehives around the world. According to this documentary, CCD (or Colony Collapse Disorder, the same disorder mentioned in itslittl3red's post) is noted as a primary cause of this disappearance, and pesticide use is said to contribute to CCD. According to itslitt3red's post, beekeepers help protect honey bees from these pesticides (in turn combating CCD).

All things considered, honey is not vegan - at least not by definition. In the most general terms, veganism is about rejecting the commodity status of animals and avoiding the use of animal products. In this sense, using honey goes against the 'rules of veganism'. On the other hand, it's important to think outside the box. It's a similar concept to my article about food wastage - there are other things that harm animals besides animal product use. Deforestation, habitat removal and pollution are some common examples. In my opinion, you should take all of this into account before you decide whether or not to use honey.

P.S: A big 'thank you' to everyone who responded to my Facebook post - I really appreciate your efforts!

19 Apr 2015

A Vegan Moral Dilemma: Should We Eat Non-Vegan Food If It'll Otherwise Be Thrown Away?

I work in hospitality, at a non-vegan restaurant, so I spend a lot of time around non-vegan products. Of course, I'd rather be working with vegan food, but since I'm studying full-time and there aren't many jobs going around, I don't have much choice.

Until you work in the food industry (speaking from personal experience), you really have no idea just how much food gets thrown away. It's ridiculous, and it's very wasteful. My workplace, for example, throws away around seventy baked goods every morning, because we can't sell anything prepared the day before. The food is still completely edible.

By law, we're not allowed to give the food to homeless shelters. That's what I wanted to do at first, and I was really disappointed when I found out we can't. It's physically painful to have to throw all of that perfectly edible food away when there are so many starving people in the world - not to mention all of the cows and chickens who gave their lives only for this food to end up in a dumpster.

Lately, I've started to think a lot about wastefulness. If a non-vegan food product is just going to be thrown away, wouldn't it be better if someone ate it? And, if no-one is around to eat it except you... should you eat it? Would that mean you're not vegan anymore?

"If a non-vegan food product is just going to be thrown away, wouldn't it be better if someone ate it? And, if no-one is around to eat it except you... should you eat it? Would that mean you're not vegan anymore?"

The same applies to other non-vegan products, such as wool blankets and leather shoes. If you've owned these products all your life, and they've already been paid for, is there any sense in throwing them away once you become vegan? Does it make any difference if you wear them or not?

Wastefulness is an enormous issue in today's world, and its effect on the environment has been described as catastrophic. To me, veganism goes beyond denying the commodity status of animals - it also extends to the environment and other humans. To me, it's a philosophy of all-around compassion and care. That's why I think it's important for vegans to think deeply about their own environmental impact and consider ways to reduce it. I ask myself: why should I buy more food, creating demand for more production, when there's plenty that's already been made going to waste? 

I've noticed two main perspectives on this issue, and I'm still not entirely sure where I stand, but my opinion does tend to lean towards one side. On one hand, most vegans think it's morally wrong to be wasteful. We shouldn't throw anything away when it could be used by somebody.

On the other hand, vegans also believe it's morally wrong to use and exploit animals for our own benefit. This applies to eating and wearing animal products, as well as using them in any other way. When we use animal products (especially in front of other people), we actively promote the idea that it's okay to use animals for our own benefit. This is one of the most common arguments I've seen coming from people who think it's better to throw a non-vegan product away than to eat it. Others think human usage is just as bad as human wastage, i.e. humans have no right to use animal products, therefore it's just as bad for them to use them as it is for them to throw them away.

What's worse: using a non-vegan product, or letting it go to landfill?

So, who is correct? Is using animal products worse than throwing them away, or is it the other way round? Is there any middle ground, or is it a black-or-white question?

Personally, I haven't found my side of the fence yet, but I do tend to lean towards the idea that wastage is very, very bad; and, because of this, it's better to use an animal product than to waste it. Of course, there are plenty of other ways to use the product other than consuming it yourself. If there's a way to give the product back to animals, or to someone who really needs it, I think it's best to choose that option.

"[Some] vegans don't like wastefulness, but to them, animal product use is just as bad."

Of course, other vegans will disagree with me. Other vegans don't like wastefulness, but to them, animal product use is just as bad. They have every right to this opinion and I can totally understand their point of view.

My veganism is based around the concept of supply and demand. Whether we eat an animal product or throw it away, the result will be the same. The animal has already suffered and their product has already been paid for. If you eat the otherwise wasted animal product, you won't be giving money to the animal product industries. In that sense, it'll make no difference at all. So, in essence, to decide whether or not to eat the product, you must take your personal moral boundaries into account.

In terms of eating meat that'll otherwise go to waste, I don't think I could do it. Meat is disgusting to me and the two occasions I accidentally ate it resulted in persistent vomiting. To me, flesh isn't food. I won't put my body through harm to avoid wastage, but I'd probably be okay with something containing small amounts of dairy, egg, honey, wool, and so on. Maybe. As I said, I'm not really sure yet.

Animal products - better here, or in your stomach?

I can understand where opponents of this idea are coming from. If we use an animal product in front of another person, regardless of our waste avoidance, we might give the impression that it's okay to use animals. This, obviously, isn't an ideology vegans want to promote. But what if no one else is around to see you use the product? Personally, I'm not certain how I feel about that, and I'll need to do some more research.

So, in summary, I think I'd rather use an animal product than let it go to waste, but I'm going to keep researching the issue until I'm 100% certain of what's right. I might change my mind. I should add that all of this is only my opinion, and it doesn't reflect on the beliefs of all vegans. Choose your own path and decide what's right for you (as long as you don't judge other vegans who think differently: remember, we're all in this together!)

6 Apr 2015

Do Vegans Kill More Animals Than Meat-Eaters Do?

In November last year, popular news and entertainment website IFL Science posted a very controversial article. If you're a member of any online vegan groups, you've probably seen it shared around. Even if you're not - you've probably seen it anyway. It's a very popular article.

Although it was posted many months ago, the article still continues to do the rounds on social media. It'll disappear for a month or two, come back for a week, and disappear again. It seems we vegans can't avoid it. Some people love to share any anti-vegan 'propaganda' they can get their hands on.

Here's the article in question.

It's all quite silly, really, considering the article has been debunked numerous times. Scroll down to the comments section and you'll find a whole lot of well thought-out responses defending the veg* lifestyle and refuting the article's incorrect assumptions and claims.

If you don't want to gravitate over to IFL Science to take a look at what the article's all about, I'll summarise the main ideas here.

According to Mike Archer, the author of the article:

  • Vegans and vegetarians are responsible for more animal deaths than non-veg* folk
  • The article is probably applicable only to Australian vegans and vegetarians (since the author is Australian, he focuses on Australian farming practices) Note: I'm also from Australia
  • Compared with meat production, wheat and grain production kills 25 times more animals per kilo of usable protein
  • Wheat and grain production causes more environmental damage
  • The wheat and grain industry is crueller than the meat industry
  • All of this is caused by native vegetation felling
  • Most cattle slaughtered in Australia feed solely on pasture
  • In the grain industry, large numbers of mice are poisoned to combat regular mouse plagues

The main problem with Mike Archer's article is its title. Even if the content of his article was one-hundred percent factually correct, the title still wouldn't work, since the author incorrectly assumes that vegans and vegetarians automatically consume more wheat and grain than meat-eaters do. He assumes that wheat and grain is the main source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. For many of us, this simply isn't true.

"Vegans and vegetarians, if possible, will grow their own crops instead of supporting large-scale agriculture."

But that's not the only problem. There are many more.

I don't want to delve too deeply into the scientific side of this issue on my own. I don't want to try and tackle a problem I don't know enough about. I'm not an expert on farming practices, so I wouldn't want to offer my audience too many of my own opinions on this subject. They may not be factually correct. Instead, I will summarise and expand upon a few other arguments I've found online. 

'Isaac', a commenter on IFL Science's website, provides a thorough argument against Mike Archer's claims. Here's a summary of his comment:

  • Vegans and vegetarians encourage and support the implementation of better farming methods
  • The food used to raise farm animals could instead be used to feed much of the world's human population
  • There's no evidence to show that new land has been cultivated in order to serve the growing number of vegans and vegetarians
  • Vegans will buy their food from sustainable sources as much as possible
  • Vegans and vegetarians, if possible, will grow their own crops instead of supporting large-scale agriculture

Isaac's points make a lot of sense. As he states, most vegans are environmentalists, and will gladly do their bit to support sustainable farming. Many of us have our own veggie gardens. Many of us try to buy our fruits, vegetables, grains and wheat from local, smaller-scale farms. 

'Isit', another commenter on IFL Science's website, further discusses my point about the connection - or lack of - between the content of Mike Archer's article and vegan/vegetarian diets.

Isit successfully sums up their own argument with one sentence: "I planted an apple tree, and ate its fruits. How many mice were killed?"

Are vegans and vegetarians responsible for mouse death on a massive scale?

The answer to Isit's question, of course, is none, so long as all necessary "mouse-safety" precautions are taken (which isn't a difficult task). Through this question, Isit quickly and succinctly debunks at least part of Mike Archer's argument. In general, growing plants - when done properly and carefully - doesn't kill animals. At least not on a significant scale. Non-local, mass production of wheat and grain products isn't the only way to farm plants. There are other options that don't result in death.

"Meat production as we know it will always result in death. At present, there is no way to get animal meat without slaughtering an animal."

On the other hand, meat production as we know it will always result in death. At present, there is no way to get animal meat without slaughtering an animal. To expand on this point, meat production as well know it will also always result in a larger amount of plant and water consumption (since the animals must be sustained for a certain period of time before they can be slaughtered).

So, to answer my opening question: No. Vegans don't kill more animals than meat-eaters, but I suppose most of you knew that already. If anyone ever tries to use IFL Science's article in an attempt to dismiss your veganism, show them this article (or Bite Size Vegan's video on the topic - found here - which is awesome; or Your Vegan Fallacy Is's page all about it - found here). We need to stand up against this rampant spread of misinformation and let the world know just how beneficial veganism really is.