Updated: Mar 23, 2022
Many vegans reach for maple syrup when then need to sweeten things up, as two common sweeteners – honey and sugar made from sugar cane – are off the table.
"Veganism is a philosophy and a way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
– The Vegan Society, formal definition of veganism
The Vegan Perspective
Vegans object to any mistreatment or killing of the bees and view the removal of honey as exploitative and harmful to the hive’s health. Given that honey is essential to the health and well-being of the hive, the vegan perspective is that honey is best left for the bees.
Objecting to Beekeeping Practices
Overall, beekeepers strive to keep their hives healthy and productive, however conventional beekeeping invariably involves injuring or killing bees. Some beekeepers chose to clip the wings of the queen bees. For those who artificially inseminate queen bees, semen collection involves the death of several drone bees. The loss of bee genetic diversity and commercially farmed bees out-competing their wild counterparts and other nectar-foraging insects is a concern for some vegans. Beekeepers, for various reasons, may cull bees or entire hives. Less-productive bees may be culled to make room for more productive ones. Some producers cull post-harvest to lessen the cost of feeding and maintaining the insects over the winter months. Hives may be destroyed to control disease. Beekeepers may dispose of bees by drowning them in soapy water. Often in the case of disease control where the entire colony must be destroyed, beekeepers seal off the hive and dousing it with diesel fuel to kill the bees.
Honey is for bees, not humans
Honey is only produced through the collective effort of thousands of bees endlessly foraging nectar and pollen and digesting, dehydrating, and storing honey. An average worker bee makes only about 1/12 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. The colony feeds on the stored honey as they wait for spring and nectar-filled flowers to bloom. Honey not merely energy for the bees; bees’ health can be sacrificed when it is removed from the hive and supplanted with nutritionally inferior sugar substitutes.
Cane Sugar – Not an animal product, but still not vegan
Unless specially labeled as vegan, any sugar made from cane sugar (white sugar, brown sugar, or powdered sugar) has been filtered through bone char.