Sunday, May 2, 2010
Perhaps no subject creates such a major debate among vegans as does honey. By definition by the Vegan Society, founded in 1944 by Donald Watson who incidentally was also the creator of the term vegan, honey is an animal by-product and therefore, as with wool, leather, and other items derived from animals, must be forbidden to those who call themselves true vegans. Not every vegan agrees. Christina Pirello, vegan chef and author of This Crazy Vegan Life, declares she does not consider honey an animal product. She writes, "In the local hives I have visited, where I purchase my raw organic honey, the bees are treated like royalty so I have made my peace with my choice."
At the risk of getting my head served to me on a platter, I believe honey is the one item that we should all give a pass. Before I explain, I should note that I personally do not like honey--I find it cloying and too sweet. While agave nectar is also sweet, it doesn't inspire me to gag, as honey has in the past. But honey should still be allowable in one instance and one only--for medicinal purposes.
Unlike wool, leather, and silk, honey contains properties which serve to help us when we are ill. Recent studies conducted by Canadian researchers have shown that some honeys can kill the bacteria which lead to chronic sinusitis. http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20080922/humble-honey-kills-bacteria
If honey is an effective means by which to combat human ailments, then it begs an ethical question for vegans--is it so wrong to use honey in this way? I would ask the most ardent of militant vegans that if the choice came between a medicine that has been tested mercilessly on animals and all-natural honey produced by bees, what is the better choice from a moral standpoint? (And by the way, I am NOT advocating anyone to abandon prescription medicines.) I personally prefer solving my health issues as natural a means whenever possible, and relying on regular medicine is frustrating. I have asthma and have heard that honey is believed to help with asthma. Instead of honey, I ingest sprays and pop pills. Does that make sense? I feel guilty using these meds, knowing that at some point they had to have been tested on some poor laboratory animals. If honey in fact can be as effective, why should I not use it (my distaste for its cloying sweetness notwithstanding?)
Honey proves that not all choices for people aspiring to be vegans are that simple, despite what the most ardent and militant vegan declares. Just food for thought on this hot and hazy May afternoon.
The Hoppy Vegan