More everyday food items than you think aren’t vegan friendly
In the last two weeks, news outlets like The Washington Post, Huffington Post, The Daily Meal and Vice Munchies have published articles about why avocados aren’t vegan-friendly. All these articles debating whether vegans should boycott avocados, yet no articles about whether people should boycott honey and beeswax products. Suspicious.
The wave of vegan avocado-related articles started when Sandi Toksvig, of the BBC’s comedy quiz show QI, revealed to listeners that avocados—as well as almonds, butternut squash, kiwis, melons and many other fruits and veggies—aren’t vegan-friendly. And all for the same reason: their harvesting cycles rely on pollination from honey bees. The most obvious example of non-vegan food made by animals (as opposed to from animals) are dairy products, such as milk and butter.
Ethical beekeeping does—and must—exist in order to maintain the global chain of food supply. However, in lieu of mass overconsumption and globalization, the degree of human interference in the pollination habits of honey bees has increased dangerously. According to a study conducted by North Carolina State University, the overall health and lifespan of honey bees was shown to be adversely affected by the commercial transportation of bee colonies for pollination purposes—or migratory beekeeping. Now a widespread agricultural practice throughout Europe and North America, migratory beekeeping involves attaching artificial beehives to the back of transportation trucks so the food items being transported are pollinated en route. Multiple experiments within this study showed the lifespan of travelling bees to be one day less than stationary bees. Although this may not seem like a drastic difference, it is when we consider that the average forager bee’s life span is only 20 days, the study suggested.
What a lot of people—even vegans—may not realize is that a single honey bee will produce merely a 12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime, according to the Vegan Society. Imagine how many bees it takes just to fill one jar of honey. How many jars have you gone through this year alone? Migratory beekeeping is just one of the many anthropocentric factors contributing to the endangerment of honey bees.
Now, back to avocados (yes, we are still talking about avocados). They arguably aren’t vegan-friendly, but who cares? The Vegan Society acknowledged in an interview with Plant Based News that “it is unfortunately not possible or practicable to avoid [indirect harm to] other animals in most farming at this time.” So, if you’re not ready to give up avocados, here are a few other ways to better wield your sword of purchasing power. Instead of honey, try date syrup, agave nectar or maple syrup for cooking, baking and sweetening drinks, respectively. Avoid buying honey-based or beeswax products. If you have access to green space, lavender, thyme and oregano are all plants you can grow that help bees pollinate. In general, try to support local food distribution networks and farmers’ markets as opposed to transnational food chains. And please, do not fret the death of avocados. Save the bees!
Feature graphic by @spooky_soda