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Honey Is Vegan By Michael Greger
All the Buzz Without the Bee
What looks like
honey, feels like honey, and tastes like honey? Suzanne’s Specialities’ Just
Like Honey Rice Nectaris just like honey except for one thing—it
is bee-free. That’s right. This vegan “honey” simply
astounded the Satya staff. Putting bees out of business, this
sweetener made from brown rice, chicory, and maple syrups, reigns
new taste of vegan.
Gluten-free and GMO-free, this nectar is the perfect topping
for pancakes, waffles and oatmeal, and a delightful addition
to tea. In fact, long- time vegan, Roshni
Koshy exclaimed that while she’s typically a coffee drinker, she’s
going to switch to drinking tea just to flavor it with Just Like Honey. It
lacks refined sugars and is still better than any other sweetener. Winnie the
wouldn’t be able to tell the difference and neither will you. Order online
at www.suzannes-specialties.com. —S.I.
Honey hurts more than just bees. It hurts egg-laying
hens, crammed in battery cages so small they can’t spread their wings. It hurts
mother pigs, languishing for months in steel crates so narrow they can’t
turn around. And the billions of aquatic animals who, pulled from filthy
aquaculture farms, suffocate to death. All because honey hurts our movement.
It’s happened to me over and over. Someone will ask me why I’m vegan—it
could be a new friend, co-worker, distant family, or a complete stranger. I know
I then have but a tiny window of opportunity to indelibly convey their first
impression of veganism. I’m either going to open that window for that person,
breezing in fresh ideas and sunlight, or slam it shut as the blinds fall. So
I talk to them of mercy. Of the cats and dogs with whom they’ve shared
their lives. Of birds with a half piece of paper’s worth of space in which
to live and die. Of animals sometimes literally suffering to death. I used to
eat meat too, I tell them. Lots of meat. And I never knew either.
Slowly but surely the horror dawns on them. You start to see them struggling
internally. How can they pet their dog with one hand and stab a piece of pig
with the other? They love animals, but they eat animals. Then, just when their
conscience seems to be winning out, they learn that we don’t eat honey.
And you can see the conflict drain away with an almost visible sigh. They finally
think they understand what this whole “vegan” thing is all about.
You’re not vegan because you’re trying to be kind or compassionate—you’re
just crazy! They smile. They point. You almost had me going for a second, they
chuckle. Whew, that was a close one. They almost had to seriously think about
the issues. They may have just been considering boycotting eggs, arguably the
most concentrated form of animal cruelty, and then the thought hits them that
you’re standing up for insect rights. Maybe they imagine us putting out
little thimble-sized bowls of food for the cockroaches every night.
I’m afraid that our public avoidance of honey is hurting us as a movement.
A certain number of bees are undeniably killed by honey production, but far more
insects are killed, for example, in sugar production. And if we really cared
about bugs we would never again eat anything either at home or in a restaurant
that wasn’t strictly organically grown—after all, killing bugs is
what pesticides do best. And organic production uses pesticides too (albeit “natural”).
Researchers measure up to approximately 10,000 bugs per square foot of soil—that’s
over 400 million per acre, 250 trillion per square mile. Even “veganically” grown
produce involves the deaths of countless bugs in lost habitat, tilling, harvesting
and transportation. We probably kill more bugs driving to the grocery store to
get some honey-sweetened product than are killed in the product’s production.
Our position on honey therefore just doesn’t make any sense, and I think
the general population knows this on an intuitive level. Veganism for them, then,
becomes more about some quasi-religious personal purity, rather than about stopping
animal abuse. No wonder veganism can seem nonsensical to the average person.
We have this kind of magical thinking; we feel good about ourselves as if we’re
actually helping the animals obsessing about where some trace ingredient comes
from, when in fact it may have the opposite effect. We may be hurting animals
by making veganism seem more like petty dogmatic self-flagellation.
In my eyes, if we choose to avoid honey, fine. Let’s just not make a huge
production of it and force everybody to do the same if they want to join the
Michael Greger, M.D. is a physician, vegan nutrition specialist,
of Carbophobia! The Scary Truth About America’s Low-Carb Craze (Lantern).
For more on the honey question, see Vegan Outreach’s Vegan Starter Pack
Q&A at www.veganoutreach.org/starterpack/qa.html.