I am asked this question often, ‘Can I even call myself vegan while still eating honey?’. To be honest, I too had this question while transitioning into veganism. It was the last animal by-product to be freed from my diet. I wasn’t going out and eating honey, I was just not careful to see if honey was an ingredient in the food I was eating. I checked for everything else. Now I follow and share a simple rule for food, if it comes from an animal, it is not vegan. Honey comes from bees, therefore is not vegan. Simple answer.
From what I hear, people who are like 99% plant-based eaters and still eat raw honey, it is for health reasons. Some say it helps with allergies, used for sweetener, etc. I see this often in the raw foods community. That argument sounds similar to the community of raw milk drinkers. Often they say drinking raw milk is for health benefits, usually allergies. (I had a good friend who once was all for raw milk for allergies, now she is off of it). I am not here to debate whether that is true or not, I am more concerned for the animals involved. In my eyes, and I think you would agree that a bee and a cow are equals. One of the major principals of veganism is the fact we treat all animals the same. I think it can be a slippery slope if I say it’s ‘ok’ to eat honey and ‘not ok’ to drink milk. Do you see what I’m saying?
For the most part, I do share about being meat and dairy free but bees need some attention too and I think often they are forgotten about. Just like milk is for baby cows, honey is for bees. It’s their food. Similar to factory farming of livestock, bees too are being factory farmed and killed. As we know, bees are a vital to our eco system and especially for plant-based eaters like ourselves.
In the past I have received criticism for sharing with people that honey is not vegan. One time I remember it was like a twitter storm of people writing to be how I was being ‘militant’, received emails and probably lost a few supporters because of it. Regardless, I will always share the basics of veganism and share advice I learned from my own journey.
I just want to point out that if you are new to veganism, and you are so close to a plant-based diet… that is great news. The fact that people ask about honey is a good think. I think it shows great progress. Honey does get slipped into foods that you would think would be vegan. This even happened to yours truly the other day. I drank an organic, all natural ginger ale, not thinking to ask if it had honey in it. I soon realized it did… Shit happens. I am still vegan, I know not to order that drink next time. Just do your best and be mindful of the animals. If you are up to this part of the veg journey, congrats : )
So long story short, here is my answer to ‘the honey question’…
‘My question is about honey, I know it is not vegan and I know a lot about the production of it but it is the one thing I have not stopped eating while becoming vegan. I know a lot of people that are vegan except for honey too. I was wondering your opinion on it and also can I even call myself vegan while still eating honey?’
As you said, honey isn’t vegan because it does come from an animal. It sounds like that is the only animal by-product that you are still using. That is a HUGE accomplishment, you freed yourself of all of that cruelty… CONGRATS!
It sounds like you are still transitioning to a full vegan lifestyle, am I right? Be proud of your accomplishments instead of focusing on achieving a certain label. I’ll be honest, honey was the LAST ingredient I freed from my diet. I just didn’t think it was important to be conscious off. Knowing how most bees are treated and knowing how precious they are to our lively-hood, I was done with honey. I still called myself vegan during that transition.
I have a feeling that you can find an alternative to honey that satisfies your taste buds when you are ready. If you focus on the one food you know you should not eat, people tend to crave that more.
Be patient with yourself and we open to living a full cruelty-free lifestyle! : )
stevia (for sweetener)