Slate: Vegans & Honey

The Great Vegan Honey DebateIs honey the dairy of the insect world?
By Daniel Engber
Posted Wednesday, July 30, 2008, at 2:20 PM ET

snip …

The flexitarian ethic is beginning to creep into the most ardent sector of the meat-free population: the vegans. In recent years, some in the community have begun to loosen up the strict definitions and bright-line rules that once defined the movement. You’ll never find a self-respecting vegan downing a glass of milk or munching on a slice of buttered toast. But the modern adherent may be a little more accommodating when it comes to the dairy of the insect world: He may have relaxed his principles enough to enjoy a spoonful of honey


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8 thoughts on “Slate: Vegans & Honey”

  1. I made the mistake of reading the posts in “the Fray” discussing that article. Ruined my day.

  2. The comments can’t be any worse than the comments you see on the vegan discussion boards when this issue is brought up. Over and over again. BTW, I’m only posting this perennial issue here because I am impressed that it made it into a mainstream site like slate.

    I do think some vegans need to realize that you can only hope to influence other people, you can’t control other people. Having a mentality of demands doesn’t get you far. It is better to focus on finding ways to influence people and barring that, learning to let go.

    I do think good points are made on both sides of the honey debate.

  3. Not worse, maybe, just different. It’s more about veganism generally than about honey in particular, and it’s mostly people saying, “I’ll eat what I darn well please, and vegans are a bunch of jerks for trying to force me to do otherwise. They should all just mind their own business.”

    Slate has covered vegetarian and vegan issues many times before, and usually they’re more sensible about it, I think, than they were in this article. From the first few paragraphs, in particular, I got the impression that they were saying that a vegan’s choice to avoid honey or not is all about her desire to define her identity as either a “hard-liner” or a moderate flexi-vegan – in other words, that vegans are driven more by their desire to maintain their identity as vegans than by concern for animal suffering. And judging by the comments, a lot of omnivores think that’s the case, too.

  4. I think that point is true for a large number of vegans, at least a large number of vegans who spend a lot of time in web forums. I’ve seen many irrationally emotional rants from people claiming that they “deserve” to be called veg*n despite occasionally eating ___ because ___,_____, etc. I also see very emotional replies claiming that they do not “deserve” to call themselves______. Who cares? You can do more for animals by getting a box of leaflets and handing them out in a high pedestrian traffic area for 30 min. Which is less time then it takes to participate in one of those perenial threads.

  5. I’ve known some vegans who eat only locally produced honey during allergy season. I avoid it. Agave nectar is much tastier. Watching Pixar’s Bee Movie actually made me more sympathetic towards bees. Is that silly?

  6. Not at all.

    Brown rice syrup has the texture and look of honey. I don’t know about the taste. I think vegan who eat honey aren’t directly using it, they are getting it as an ingredient in something they are buying.

  7. agave is where it’s at! i forgot the reasons as well, but honey isn’t so healthy for you. addt’ly, beekeepers usually feed the bees a milk-sugar water mix in place of honey (since they have taken the honey). that, and taking their honey is likely a contributing factor to the colony collapse disorder epidemic (which is pretty friggin serious)

    i do think it is important to maintain the intergrity of the word “vegan” by what makes you one- otherwise people will think vegan means you can eat goat’s milk and other silly animal products in the same way that people now thing vegetarians eat chicken and fish.

  8. I’ve had plenty of encounters with people who think that some vegetarians eat chicken and (especially) fish, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who believes that all vegetarians eat those things. Of course, it would be nice to go to a dinner party or a restaurant, and say “I’m veg(etari)an” and have everybody automatically understand exactly what that means. But if they don’t, you have exchanges that go like this:

    “What do you have that’s vegetarian?”
    “Do you eat chicken and fish?”
    “No, I don’t.”
    “Oh, OK. Then we have X, Y, and Z.”

    No big deal. At least, that’s how it’s always gone in my experience. If I’d had a long string of experiences of people serving me fish and assuming I could eat it without asking, I’m sure I’d feel differently. But as it is, I don’t quite get the importance of maintaining the integrity of the word “vegan.”

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