Is Honey Vegan? (The Honey Debate)

in veganism •  22 days ago

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The term Vegan when originally coined by Donald Watson's readership, referred to NON DAIRY and NON EGG eating Vegetarians.

The established current definition by The Vegan Society excludes Honey, however, Veganism has gone through about 8 iterations where honey has been defined as Vegan since the inception of
The Vegan Society.

For those of us that aren’t concerned with labels and care about the ethics of Honey. Since about the 1940's we've been able to extract honey from bees without violence or evacuating them from their homes through smoke. The harsh standards i.e. sedating the bees, clipping the wings of queen bees to keep the bees around the hive and sedating them are still practiced by some bee keepers but are not required for the extraction of honey. Technically speaking, based on the original use of the word Vegan, honey is considered Vegan. That being said, definitions change and the ethics around extracting honey from bees is still a contentious issue around Vegans.

In the ancient Jain tradition of Ahimsa, honey was excluded on the basis that smoking bees to evacuate them from their homes was considered violent behaviour. Moreover bees and small insects would often become stuck or injured during the harvesting of honey. These standards however no longer apply.

"The Vegan Society encourages vegans to avoid honey, but as Watson, Cross and the earlier vegans did, they leave honey -- as they do everything beyond the vegan diet -- to the conscience of the individual."

Below are 14 different definitions of "vegan" from the UK Vegan Society's newsletter, along with the date that the change took place.

Spring 1946
The aims of the Society are:

  1. To advocate that man's food should be derived from fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains and other wholesome non-animal products and that it should exclude flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, and animals milk, butter and cheese.
  2. To encourage the production and use of alternatives to animal commodities.

Spring 1947
The aims of the Society are:
(a) To advocate that man's food should be derived from fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains and other wholesome non-animal products and that it should exclude flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, and animals milk, butter and cheese.
(b) To encourage the production and use of alternatives to animal commodities.
(c) To extend and organise Veganism nationally and internationally between those endeavouring to follow this way of life.

Spring 1948 -- (Honey is removed as a banned food)
The Vegan Society, founded 1944, ADVOCATES that man' food should be derived from fruits nuts, vegetables and grains, and ENCOURAGES the use of alternatives to all products of animal origin.

Spring 1954 (belated catching up with Cross's Constitution, after Cross re-joined the committee, the 1950 change and new rules were published inside the magazine in 1951, but the newsletter definition was not changed until 1954 -- still no mention of avoiding honey) The Society affirms that man has no right to exploit animals, advocates that man's food should be derived from fruits, nuts, vegetables and grains, and encourages the use of alternatives to all products of animal origin.

Winter 1954 (getting stricter, but no prohibition on honey)
Veganism is the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals. The Vegan Society seeks to end this exploitation in its many forms, advocates that man's food should be derived solely from the vegetable kingdom to the exclusion of all animal products, encourages the production and use of alternatives to commodities of animal origin, promotes veganism at home and abroad, and facilitates contacts between those endeavouring to further the aims of the Society.

Summer 1957 (back to food as #1- following John Heron's members' meeting - no prohibition on honeys)
Veganism is the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom - to the exclusion of all animal foods - proceeding from a wide consideration of man's place in nature. The objects of the Vegan Society are to provide in thought and practice for the advance of veganism and to relate veganism to every aspect of creative co-operation between man and nature.

Summer 1962 (Animal Rights vegans take over again, honey now prohibited)
Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence and compassion for all life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourage the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly, or in part from animals. Veganism remembers man's responsibilities to the earth and its resources and seeks to bring about a healthy soil and plant kingdom and a proper use of the materials of the earth.

Autumn 1972 (honey removed as banned food)
The Vegan Society, founded 1944, advocates living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of all food and other commodities derived wholly or in part from animals. Its members base their lives on the ethic of Reverence for Life and seek to free themselves from all forms of cruelty and exploitation. They are aware of man's responsibilities to his environment and seek to promote the proper use of the resources of the earth.

Winter 1974 ('exploitation' has gone, along with 'reverence' honey still not banned):
Veganism is defined as a way of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, animal milk and its derivatives. It encourages the study and use of alternatives for all commodities normally derived wholly or partly from animals. The objects of the Vegan Society are to further knowledge of an interest in sound nutrition and in veganism and the vegan method of agriculture as a means of increasing the potential of the earth to the physical, moral and economic advantage of mankind.

Winter 1979 (honey affirmatively mentioned as permissible):
Veganism is defined as a way of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, animal milk and its derivatives (the taking of honey being left to individual conscience). It encourages the study and use of alternatives for all commodities normally derived wholly or partly from animals. The objects of the Vegan Society are to further knowledge of an interest in sound nutrition and in veganism and the vegan method of agriculture as a means of increasing the potential of the earth to the physical, moral and economic advantage of mankind.

Winter 1981 (much expanded, honey still affirmatively mentioned as permissible):
The Vegan Society was formed in 1944 by a group of vegetarians who had become aware of the suffering inseparable from their diet. Its advantages as regards human health and the wise use of the world's resources became apparent and in 1964 it was granted Charity status. In 1979 it became a Limited Company and its Charity status was confirmed. Its declared object is "to further knowledge of an interest in sound nutrition and in veganism and the vegan method of agriculture as a means of increasing the potential of the earth to the physical, moral and economic advantage of mankind". Veganism is defined as a way of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, animal milk and its derivatives (the taking of honey being left to individual conscience). It encourages the study and use of alternatives for all commodities normally derived wholly or partly from animals. Free from commitment to any religious, political, philosophical, social, dietary or medical group, members of the Vegan Society endeavour to co-operate with all who are seeking a positive way forward for mankind.

Summer 1985 (exploitation is back at the top, but honey still optional)
Veganism may be defined as a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom for food, clothing or any other purpose. In dietary terms, it refers to the practice of dispensing with all animal produce - including flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, (non-human) animal milks, and their derivatives, with the taking of honey being left to the individual conscience. [the society's website claims that this definition began in 1979 - they are clearly wrong, as the previous definition appeared in its newsletter until spring 1985]

Winter 1988 - as above, except honey added to the list of banned substances.

Source | http://vegansociety.today/honey.html

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To be a vegetarian originally meant to not consume any animal products. Dairy, eggs, and honey don't vegetate. Eggs were never even considered vegetarian by people in India, since it's liquid meat.

I feel like that term has been butchered through the years and now someone can be "lacto-vegetarian" which is commonly referred to when people nowadays think vegetarian. IMO, you're either vegetarian or not, and you're not if you're on the fence like pescetarians. What about people who eat some chicken and mostly plants would they be considered "poultry-vegetarian"? It's ridiculous if you think about it. Your either pregnant or you're not.

Vegan was coined by an animal rights activist for people concerned primarily about the ethics of eating animals, not health first and foremost, which I think is not good. Interestingly, when you look up the term vegan on youtube or google there is always some propaganda against it or some agenda associated with the term compared to vegetarian.

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Vegetarianism was originally a diet based on plants, excluding animal secretions. It was derived from the 'Pythagorean diet'. "In the 18th and 19th century, proponents of the Pythagorean way often referred to it as a 'vegetable diet'."
"In the middle of the 20th century, in reaction to the word 'vegetarian' changing to refer to a diet that included animal products, a young British animal activist named Donald Watson
conceived a new word 'Vegan' to better convey the ethics behind the diet."
That being said, it's oldest origins can be dated back to the Jain tradition of Ahimsa 9000 years ago.
The Jains abstained from eating eggs primarily on the basis that you're consuming an unborn chicken. That being said, chicken eggs are essentially a chickens period. They are unfertilized as chickens are commonly not kept around roosters. Moreover, Milk in the Jain tradition was considered traditionally in line with Ahimsa as it did not require harm to be inflicted on a cow/goat etc.
Vegetarianism, in fact, was primarily a philosophy of non-violence. Animal by-products if obtained without violence are in line with the philosophy of Ahimsa.

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Yes, there are countless of examples of vegetarians who didn't eat any animal products and referred to it as the pytagorean diet, that's correct. Pythagorus along with other ancient vegetarians didn't separate health and ethics. I prefer the more OG term "vegetarian" to call myself rather than Vegan but I understand the semantical issue and misunderstandings people have about these labels.

Vegetarianism, in fact, was primarily a philosophy of non-violence. Animal by-products if obtained without violence are in line with the philosophy of Ahimsa.

There are some strict Jains that don't drink milk or even eat certain root vegetables and tubers because they believe it is inflicting harm. I don't seek how using milk, especially today is not violent. Perhaps not direct violence, but if you're using a cow as a machine for food your exploiting the individual animal. Also the great majority of milk is extracted through forced pregnancy

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True, True. I share your perspective. I find the general use of the word 'exploitation' to be troublesome as it implies taking advantage of a being even when it's voluntary. Animals consent with their body language and I believe voluntary and symbiotic relationships can be formed with them.

Needless to say force milking a cow and subjecting it to any violence is not in line with Ahimsa, however the traditional practice of milking a cow after it's calf has been fed, inflicts no harm and is voluntary if the cow is not resisting. Moreover, the cows are not subjected to forced insemination and are left to breed with bulls on their own accord.