14. Honey – is it natural and ethical to eat it?

Honey is the last on my list of foods produced by animals. We are investigating different foods that humans eat, to see whether it is natural to eat them, and, also, whether it is ethical

Honey collecting is an ancient pastime, and humans have found it irresistible through the ages. A cave painting in Valencia, Spain, dated 8000 years ago, shows humans collecting honey. It’s been used not only for its sweetness, but also for healing internally and topically. It has been packaged to accompany the dead to the afterlife, and for various religious ceremonies, whether offered to monks or poured over deity effigies.

But, we have to ask our questions….

Investigation

Is it natural?

Can we (human primates, equipped only with our bodies and natural items such as rocks, sticks, soil, fire, etc) collect and eat honey?

Even in today’s honey operations, which have not changed much since humans started to keep bees, collecting honey takes some expertise. Bees behave in a man-made beehive just as they do in a wild hive. They are fiercely protective of not only their honey, but more importantly, their queen. Anyone going to collect honey without adequate protection is likely to get stung.

This video shows how honey is collected in the wild:

It is hazardous, but obviously something human primates can do without needing tools so, therefore, it is natural food.

Is it ethical?

a) Have the bees suffered the least harm?

Watching the video above has shown that honey harvested in the wild certainly causes a great deal of harm. The grubs within the comb, and probably also the queen, lose their lives. Any bees that defend the hive by stinging, lose their lives when they sting. The rest of the bees will die unless they can find a source of honey to eat.

So, harvesting this way is wholesale murder of bees.

Commercial bee operations also involve murder. Queens are often killed to install replacement queens to prevent swarming, and for other practical reasons. Or, if two hives are merged, the queen of the weaker swarm is killed. Some beekeepers kill their swarms before winter, for ‘economic’ reasons.

So, no matter which way honey is harvested, the death of bees is involved unless, of course, it is produced ethically. It is possible. If you’re interested, check this out: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/01/beekeeping-and-the-ethical-vegan-will-curley/

But what harm does it do when their honey is taken? Here is an amazing method developed by two Australians to harvest honey without harming or stressing the bees:

http://www.honeyflow.com/ 

b) Have the bees had the best life possible?

Wild bees obviously have a brilliant life, but commercially kept bees are in danger of being moved from place to place, or killed, not to mention being exposed to pesticides and antibiotics and fed unnatural sugars such as corn syrup, which could be harmful if genetically modified. (1)

However, if bees are kept ethically, they should be living a life as close to wild as possible.

c) Is this food good for us?

Honey has wonderful properties. It has been known to prevent cancer and heart disease, is antibacterial and antifungal, reduces coughs, regulates blood sugar and heals wounds and burns.

But, it must be raw, unheated, unprocessed honey. Heating destroys the enzymes that heal.

Some commercial operations treat the bees with toxic chemicals against pests, and they administer antibiotics, all of which will find its way into the honey, and then into the consumer. So, again, organic, ethically-sourced honey is the best option.

Remember that, even if your honey is ethically produced, it is a sugar and should not be taken in large amounts. Best to treat it as medicine. Remember that it takes a honey bee her whole lifetime to produce just 1.5 teaspoons of honey (2).

Final verdict in my opinion

If honey is harvested from an organic ethical operation, not heated or processed, harvested humanely and taken in small doses as medicine, not food, it is both natural and ethical. Any other source is not acceptable.

So, honey is borderline.

Do you agree?

Next post: Plants – their roots.

 

  1. http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/ethicalreports/honey/beewelfareandhoney.aspx
  2. http://www.honeycouncil.ca/chc_poundofhoney.php
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