Is Honey Vegan?

Bees and honeycomb
Is Honey Vegan?

Honey is a natural sweetener that’s been around since the beginning of time. However, new vegans might find themselves asking: is honey vegan? If not, what can I use instead?

To put it simply: no, honey isn’t vegan. It’s a resource produced by bees which they use as food stock in the winter. Because it’s produced by an animal, it’s not vegan.

Interested in learning more about veganism? You might like: What is Veganism? And How to Become Vegan

Bees make honey
Honey is an animal product

Is honey vegan? Here’s why we say no

Apart from it being an animal product, there are a few more reasons why honey isn’t vegan. The sad truth is, there are some cruel practices that go on in the world of commercial honey production which makes the substance lean even further away from veganism. Here are just a few of them.

Honey trickery

As honey is used by bees as a food source in the winter, they would definitely notice if a jarful went missing. Therefore, beekeepers will often replace any honey that they remove from the hive with a similar volume of a sugar-water solution. This is common practice in the world of large scale beekeeping, and it could be avoided. 

The bees make a surplus of honey to survive the winter. If just that surplus was harvested, then the sugar solution wouldn’t need to be used. However, farmers argue that they have to make a profit, and therefore they can justify taking all of the honey, and replacing what they can with the solution.

However, sugar water is devoid of the antibiotic or antioxidant shield which honey produces. This means that the bees which produce the honey are left more vulnerable to disease. This may be a factor in the decline of the bee population.

Cruel commercial honey practices by some

You might think that bees don’t get harmed in the production of honey. After all, the honey farmers would need the bees to make more honey. This does make sense, however, it’s far from the reality that sometimes happens with commercially farmed honey.

It is a common practice for farmers to kill bees at the end of a season because it’s cheaper to do that than to feed them for the winter. The alternative to killing the bees in such a way would be to feed them the sugar water mentioned above. Even this outcome would lead to the weakening of their immune systems, and in turn, disease, and (most likely) death.

That being said, there are beekeepers that practice ethical farming and organic practices that look after their bee populations and encourage bees to flourish. So, if you’re struggling to give up honey at this stage in your journey, finding an ethical bee farmer might be an option until you’re ready to give it up.

Vegan honey alternatives

It isn’t all bad news, though. While all honey and honey products are not vegan, there are plant-based alternatives you can enjoy drizzling on your Vegan Pancakes or on a piece of vegan toast. Try using this Easy Homemade Vegan Bread Recipe!

A personal favorite is maple syrup but you can also try agave syrup, brown rice syrup, or even date syrup. Or you can find a commercial vegan honey alternative.

Maple syrup in a maple leaf bottle with vegan pancakes
Maple syrup and vegan pancakes

Although honey and honey products are not vegan, there are plenty of alternatives out there. If you can’t give up honey just yet, we encourage you to find a beekeeper that practices ethical bee farming and organic practices that care for the bee populations until you’re ready to give honey up completely.