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I was thinking of following a vegan diet for health reasons. I tried it for a week during a "cleanse" and it wasn't so bad, even though I love steak and eggs. I was just curious though if honey is considered vegan or not. It's an animal (bee) byproduct, right? The only difference maybe is that it's something bee's make naturally, although if we farm them for the honey it's not exactly humane (see A Bee Movie).

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If you're doing it for health reasons, I don't think this is the important question. Yes, it's an animal product - but does it share the nutritional characteristics of other animal products that you're trying to avoid? Corn syrup is vegan, but is it really going to be better for your health than honey? – Jefromi Jul 6 '11 at 23:33
To be honest I do not understand the problem. You do not seem to be concerned with the fact of eating animal-derived products, so if your only reason to follow a vegan diet is to eat healthy food, well then honey is quite an healthy food if eaten correctly, pretty much as any other food. Sola dosis facit venenum :) – nico Jul 8 '11 at 17:47
Well I don't actually tend to eat that much sugar or sugar substitutes anyway. The question was mainly just a matter of curiosity. Regardless, I think having some kind of strict rule helps me to avoid temptation, so the theory is if I can just pretend to be vegan I'll generally eat better. I grew up on microwave dinners and cheese-filled hot dogs so I'm trying to retrain my diet and I'm trying to become better educated in the nutrition department. – redbmk Jul 8 '11 at 18:16
up vote 21 down vote accepted

Honey is not vegan. In short, the core tenet of veganism is living without exploiting anything in the animal kingdom, and most (if not all) vegans consider taking honey from bees a form of exploitation.

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A direct corollary would be milk. Also, honey can sometimes contain insect parts apparently. – mfg Jul 6 '11 at 21:27
+1: If you take anything (other than excrement...Probably) from anything that has eyes or a face, it's not vegan. – Satanicpuppy Jul 6 '11 at 21:55
All vegetable mater has animals or animal parts in it. You try growing something without bugs getting in to it! – TFD Jul 6 '11 at 22:28
"Most (if not all) vegans consider taking honey from bees a form of exploitation." I'm calling citation needed. – djechlin Jun 17 '13 at 17:54
Also, core tenet according to whom? I know people who are vegan for environmental purposes and are not (very) concerned with whether animals are exploited. – djechlin Jun 17 '13 at 18:02

I'm vegan, and don't eat honey, but I think it very much depends on why you went vegan. If it's for health then I don't think it makes a difference. If you want to get into a moral argument you can make the case that it's closer to using wool than using milk... (I don't make the argument, but I respect that people can) but the choice is yours - it was a pretty easy choice for me as I didn't like honey to start with... :)

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As for environmental, economic, and animal cruelty reasons, wool and milk and honey are equivalent. They all rely on support of "exploitive" animal economies. I don't want to come across as argumentative as honey can make for flames with some vegans, but I fail to see your argument contrasting milk and wool, could you expand on that in your answer? – mfg Jan 20 '12 at 22:34
Um... I was being quite careful not to make the argument, I was mentioning it in the context that I've been in the presence of people who used the same reasoning. :) – Joe Jan 20 '12 at 23:46

Semantic question, I subscribe, but I'd like to add a consideration. Let's think to the reason why people became vegan.

  • Cultural reasons? Surely this is not the case of western vegan movement (on the contrary, not rarely vegans are despised for they choice)
  • Religion reasons? Surely some eastern religion push to veganism, but in western context religion plays no role in vegan choice. Personally, I'm atheist, like the few vegan I know.
  • Health reasons? Man is omnivore, why don't eat animal food should be healthier? (normally vegan diet is not dangerous, but evidently this is not a reason to became vegan)
  • Love for animals? I don't find this plays an important role in vegan movement. Personally, I hate that stupid and smelly being (but not so much to improve torture on them with my food choice)

In most of cases western people became vegan simply because they don't like causing terrible pains (castrations, spending life in a cage big as your body, violent killing, etc., look for example to mercyforanimals investigations and sites) for very frivolous reasons (meat taste, urban legend that veganism is normally dangerous for health, etc.). Maybe there are more important problems in the world, but none with a so simply and not demanding solution. Most of western vegan did this choice after consideration that only for very important reason (medical research, for example) we could eventually cause pain to a living being (I said "pain", so I'm speaking about living being with a complex nervous system, not about vegetables or micro-organisms). So veganism has many roots (economic, ecological, etc.) but fight against useless pain is surely the first one. Now, having said all that... what about honey? The question is: "bees feel pain?", or more precisely: "honey industry cause pain?". I'm vegan and I eat honey, because I suppose the answer is "not" (but I'd like to know biology answer).

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However, for culinary purposes, above recommendation to not consider it vegan is proper. The fact that products with honey or beeswax in them do not usually get labelled vegan by manufacturers that do label their vegan/vegetarian products should paint a clear picture of the accepted norms around that term. – rackandboneman Dec 7 '15 at 11:51
Of course I agree, product labeled vegan in market doesn't have honey. Anyway I wouldn't use this fact as unquestionable criterion about the meaning of the word vegan. Food producers logically take a decision prudent, that doesn't give any trouble and match all potential buyer. Anyway I suspect that many vegan eat honey. I won't quarrel about this question, simply I think that the meaning of this word, as it is used in society, is a bit ambiguous. – Fausto Vezzaro Dec 10 '15 at 21:44
Most groups advocating veganism will also discourage honey. – rackandboneman Dec 11 '15 at 9:02

This is purely a semantics question. It depends on how you define "vegan." If you define vegan to mean something like "contains no animal products," then honey is not vegan. Can you be vegan if you eat honey, or can honey be part of a vegan diet? Those are more slippery questions. I know many people who identify as vegan and practice veganism for various combinations of health, environmental and ethical reasons, who choose to consume honey.

In my experience, there isn't really a such thing as being a vegan for health reasons, because I do not know of any vegan diets whose purpose is to optimize nutrition. For instance, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times (two servings) a week. I have never met someone who identifies as vegan primarily for health reasons. The only people I know who never "cheat" on their vegan diets are vegan strongly for ethical reasons. However, it may be a healthy step for you to take in your diet because exposing yourself to the vegan community may lead to you eating a lot more food that is healthy for you and a lot less food that is unhealthy for you. Would the vegan community accept you if you still consumed honey? Depends on the people, but in my experience with vegan communities as someone who still consumes fish, probably.

Could you identify as vegan if you still consumed honey? Sure, that's up to you. Will other people agree that you are vegan or accept you as a vegan? In my experience, non-vegans will consistently think of a honey-inclusive diet as vegan, partly because they, like you up to before you asked this question, haven't given it much thought. Strict vegans who don't eat honey might not, but I don't see any reason this should be important to you.

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