The truth is, the honey industry is dark and horrifying.
First of all, it’s important that you understand a little about bees themselves. Like all earthlings, bees are sentient and have a central nervous system. This means that they are able to think, to feel, to experience joy, sadness, pain, fear and excitement. In reality, they are no different to cats, dogs, cows, whales or humans.
Secondly, it is important to realise who is keeping these bees. You may have an image in your mind of a man with a few hives out in his backyard. While that is in fact the proper image of most beekeepers, most honey comes from full-time factory bee farmers.
A successor queen is selected by a human instead of the reigning queen, both of whom may have been artificially inseminated. Queens can live for as long as five years but most commercial beekeepers replace them every two years. In other words, the old queen is killed. Backyard beekeepers also regularly kill their queens. This is done for numerous reasons that all boil down to exerting control over the hive. For example, it is done to prevent swarming, aggression, mite infestation, and to keep honey production at a maximum. Queens come from commercial queen suppliers.
Travel can be rough on the queens. Once at the post office or shipping depot, nearly anything can happen. Queens can be over heated, chilled, left out in the sun for hours, banged around in baggage compartments, and exposed to insecticides. Often, the post office or shipping hub fails to contact the customer when the queens arrive and they may sit in storage for days. It is surprising that the queens come through as well as they do.
Finally, hives are routinely split in half according to what the keeper wants, not the queen.
When manipulating the bees, most beekeepers use a smoker to maintain control and to prevent some stings. The smoke gets the bees to gorge themselves on honey, which calms them down. The smoke also masks the alarm pheromone that the guard bees release and prevents the entire colony from becoming agitated.
During the fall and winter a mouse guard is often placed over the entrance to the hive. Usually, the bees drag their dead out of the hive but the mouse guard often prevents this from happening.
Generally speaking, there is a lack of regard for the bees’ lives. In the US, 10-20% of colonies are lost over the winter. It is partly by accident and partly on purpose. Some beekeepers kill off their hives before winter because this practice can make economic sense.
Unfortunately, it is not the small backyard beekeeper but rather the large, factory bee farmer, so a lot of bees are killed even if most beekeepers don’t use the practice.
Not to mention, in the process of checking up on the hive and taking the honey, some bees get squashed by the frames or stepped on. Bees who sting the keeper in defence of their home obviously die too. And if two colonies are combined, the queen of the weaker colony is killed.
So that the honey can be easily removed from the comb, it is often warmed prior to removal. Bees brought into the warming room will fly to a window where they can be trapped to the outside by a wire cone or bee escape. If there are no windows in the room, other methods such as an electric grid can be used to dispose of the stray bees.
Bees are animals with a large nervous system capable of transmitting pain signals. And unlike in the case of plants, pain as we know it is very clearly demonstrated in bees as they are capable of moving to avoid it.
So why don’t vegans consume honey from backyard bee keepers?
1. Backyard bee keepers often obtain their queens from factory farms.
2. It is still an animal product so by definition, it’s not vegan.
3. Even if these bees have the best possible lives, it’s still a form of exploitation in that they are being used for human gain and benefit as opposed to existing for their own purpose.
4. It’s vomit. Literally.
5. Most importantly, it’s not ours to take. It does not belong to us and in a sense, it’s a form of theft.
This is why I don’t consume honey!
NO NO THIS IS SO HORRIBLY WRONG!! We need to support local bee keepers. Bee populations have dropped incredibly. This is a bigger picture situation that is really important. I hate when people spread this about bees. We need to keep LOCAL bee keepers in business.
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