In my pursuit to get everyone to chill out about eating vegan (or not eating vegan), I would like to address the eternal question of whether or not honey is “allowed” in a vegan diet.
As with most conversations around veganism, the question, “So, do you eat honey?” is usually posed to a vegan by a thoughtful, inquisitive person, simply interested in learning more about her life choices.
Quite to the contrary, seasoned vegans who are familiar with this question know the tone in which it is delivered and, let me tell you, it’s a real buzz kill.
(haha – get it? buzzzzzzz kill?)
The question usually follows, “How do you get your protein?” or the declarative, “I could never give up cheese.”
It lands in strong air of smug, like the person deserves a Pulitzer for his skills in “gotcha” journalism.
Why so smug?
The catch is, more often than not, there is no “acceptable” acceptable answer to the question of whether or not to eat honey. The scenarios are:
You do not eat honey and so you risk coming off like a crazy fundamentalist who lives in a fantasy land where all living creatures coexist in perfect harmony. Helpful feedback could be something along the lines of, “You know that you kill ants just walking out the door, right?”
You do eat honey and you come under attack for having no moral standards or for contradicting some vegan code sent from on high (if someone could direct me to those tablets that contain the vegan commandments, it would really help). You are criticized for favoring certain living creatures over others and it is implied that you’re probably an idiot, “So eating eggs – unfertilized eggs – is immoral but stealing from enslaved bees is a-ok?”
In general, I recommend employing the Vegan 3rd Degree Dodge whenever such rigged attacks are delivered. See: How to Eat Vegan and Still Have Friends
But, to work through this dilemma, and other vegan dilemmas, the key to remember is this:
THERE ARE NO VEGAN COMMANDMENTS!
Shout it from the rooftops! Read all about it! PETA is not your new ruler and you do not have to answer to either the crusty punk or the cowboy.
If you are interested in eating a plant-based diet, you are not about to enter a cult with a strict set of rules and obligations which, should you chose to ignore them, could risk getting you excommunicated.
There is no vegan Pope! You do NOT have to confess your cheese transgressions and atone by petting 5 dogs lovingly and eating a bowl of kale. Amen.
Some people who eat vegan feel the mass production of honey is akin to factory farming – that the natural process of honey production is corrupted and the bees are essentially enslaved and abused. They enjoy the wide array of alternative sweeteners, from maple syrup to agave, and do not miss honey.
Others feel that consuming honey is a way to encourage beekeeping and help an at-risk, but vital to our ecosystem, community – the good ole bees. Maybe they purchase their honey from a local supplier (a bonus for combatting allergies too, I’ve heard) and feel great about using it.
Then there are those who don’t give it much thought and are just amazed that they got through Thanksgiving dinner as a vegan without causing Grandma Millie to keel over when her marshmallow topped sweet potatoes were refused. They eat honey, they’re not interested in stopping, and they’re turned off by such an extreme version of the diet.
The vegan community (as it were) is a rainbow, my friends. Enjoy the spectrum and, as always, do you.
WANT HELP GETTING STARTED?
Download a vegan grocery list for beginners.