Most omnivores are only vaguely aware of what a vegan lifestyle entails. Some incorrectly believe it’s only a dietary practice, but this misses the heart of what it means to be vegan. Vegans want to eliminate animal suffering and exploitation as much as possible. This philosophy, while clearly an admirable one, leaves a great deal of room for ambiguity, and often leaves non-vegans with more questions than answers.
Because vegans seek to eliminate animal suffering, they use no animal products whatsoever. This obviously includes food containing animal products, but also includes a wide-range of other lifestyle habits and choice. For example, certain tires contain a component that is derived from animal tissue. Some vegans won’t use these tires because of it, but others don’t see it as a problem. Animals are, to an extent, harmed by the production of almost every product, so the crux of the question lies in where to draw the line. However, there are some issues that virtually every vegan agrees upon: no purchasing or wearing of leather, fur, wool or any other clothing made from animals in any way.
The fact that all vegans refrain from wearing wool helps explain why honey isn’t vegan. Even though no animals are killed when wool is made, the vegan credo holds that the sheep are exploited by having their wool taken from them. This implies that sheep are considered sentient enough to warrant this provision regarding the issue. Since sheep are animals and are within the scope of this school of thought, bees ought to be included as well. Therefore, honey is not considered vegan. Several popular vegan honey alternatives are on the market, some of which use agave nectar, but all of which are completely plant-based. The level of satisfaction with these products as compared to real honey seems to be, in general, fairly high.
However, this rule has its exceptions, and there are people (although not very many) who subscribe to the bulk of the vegan value system, but still consume honey. Gelatin, which contains ingredients found in animal hooves, is usually also totally off limits for vegans, but there are highly rare exceptions who bend that rule as well. The overarching philosophy of veganism is reducing animal suffering and exploitation, and since insects are animals, eating honey counts as exploitation for exactly the same reason that wearing sheep’s wool does. By the truest sense of the definition, no vegan should ever do either one.
About Hamish McLaren
A devoted vegan enthusiast, Hamish McLaren delights in sharing the endless array of delicious vegan recipes he has discovered over the years. As the founder of Hamish McLaren’s Vegan Recipes, Hamish is able to offer a useful digital resource to anyone interested in learning more about vegan cuisine.