From my front-row seat at a Washington, DC Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine conference, I clearly heard Dr. Neal Barnard answer a question about honey’s health benefits.
Not only did he call it just another form of concentrated sugar; he added, “Honey is not vegan.”
Although most vegans would agree with him, I’ve read at least one book recently that presented a different take on the matter. As insects, the author argued, bees aren’t the same as the two-and four legged creatures that typically wind up on our plates.
Therefore, their reasoning is, honey is acceptable vegan fare. Some would even call the author of this book a Beegan.
But they’d also assume that the author hasn’t watched Netflix’ Rotten: Lawyers, Guns & Honey. Why?
One of the film’s beekeepers calls his colonies livestock. And a quick online search found this explanation from the American Veterinarian Medical Association:
“Honey bees are classified as livestock/food-producing animals by the federal government because products from apiculture enter the human food chain.”
In addition to honey, these products include propolis, a gluelike substance used to seal unwanted openings in the hives; pollen; and nutrient-rich royal jelly reserved for the queen and developing bee larvae.
While taking a deep dive into the unsavory truths about the hidden forces capitalizing on the exploding demand for honey, the documentary reveals how amazingly complex these insects are.
Did you know of that a queen bee lays up to 2000 eggs (twice her own weight!) each day? Or that worker bees flap their wings 200 times a second?
Or that without bees pollinating plants, vegans would have a hard time finding the vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds to feed themselves?
But do humans thank these remarkable creatures for the role they play in our species’ survival? Not according to beekeeper Jonathan Walker of Rogers, Texas.
Bees spend their spring and summer making honey that they store until December, Walker says, “… when they get hungry again. So we are going to take that burden off of them. Really, what we’re doing is robbing them.”
If that weren’t bad enough, the bees of the world have become increasingly susceptible to colony collapses over the past 20 years. While the film doesn’t spend a lot of time examining their causes, it does offer the latest scientific explanations:
“Today scientists believe the bees are dying from a combination of stresses, brought on by parasites, by insecticides, and by agri-business monocultures that replace flowering meadows with acres of crops which offer bees no nectar at all.”
Putting it simply, bees are becoming a casualty of our attempts attempt to conquer Nature.
Lawyers, Guns & Honey also takes a deep dive into the unsavory truths about the hidden forces trying to capitalize on our ever increasing demand for this natural sweetener.
Take the case of millions of pounds of adulterated honey imported to America by Germany’s Alfred L. Wolff Company it was the “largest food fraud case in U. S. history.”
Bee keepers in other countries often dilute their products with fillers such as rice syrup in order to sell them to the American market at discounted prices. But in one Wolff case, the honey contained the bee antibiotic Chloramphenicol.
Chloramphenicol can be fatal to humans, yet Wolff’s executives knowingly distributed the contaminated honey throughout the United States!
Getting back to the vegan/Beegan controversy: I’m personally in Dr. Barnard’s camp. My own vegan restaurant chain never has, and never will, use a single drop of honey.