Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The honey conundrum

Partly Reproduced from the article http://www.slate.com/id/2196205
Whenever I read about veganism or talk about it with someone, I end up with questions about honey. Honey stumps a lot vegans, because it leads to a lot more arguments about the insect world and just makes veganism sound extreme and not sensible. The worry is usually over the ethics of honey production without worrying over the entire beekeeping industry.

Honey accounts for only a small percentage of the total honeybee economy in the United States; most comes from the use of rental hives to pollinate fruit and vegetable crops. Commercial bees are used in the production of about 100 foods, including almonds, avocados, broccoli, canola, cherries, cucumbers, lettuce, peaches, pears, plums, sunflowers, and tomatoes. Even the clover and alfalfa crops we feed to dairy cows are sometimes pollinated by bees.

Life for these rental bees may be far worse than it is for the ones producing honey. The industrial pollinators face all the same hardships, plus a few more: They spend much of their lives sealed in the back of 18-wheelers, subsisting on a diet of high-fructose corn syrup as they're shipped back and forth across the country. Husbandry and breeding practices have reduced their genetic diversity and left them particularly susceptible to large-scale die-offs.

Even the vegans who abstain from honey end up dining on the sweat and hemolymph of exploited bees. There isn't really an alternative: We can't replace our insects of burden with machines, as we've done for the mules that once pulled our tractor rakes. You might try to do right by seeking out wind-pollinated grains and fruits tended by wild insects. But what about the bugs that inevitably perish in the course of any large-scale agriculture? Even the organic farmers are culpable: They may not spray synthetic pesticides, but they do make use of natural chemicals and predators to kill off unwanted animals.

We do not know enough about the insect nervous system to know if they feel pain or how much suffering are they conscious about. The suffering as we know is felt only by living things with a developed nervous system. Eventually we can keep going down the path of all living things to a single cell organism and if there is any suffering involved. The debate becomes useless at this point.

The point of veganism is not being extremist about such issues. It is about reducing suffering in as many ways as possible, in being kind to as many living things involved, is understanding that self preservation will eventually lead to pain and death of say agriculture pests or mosquitoes and such. And it not just about animals as well. It is about people too. Reducing suffering and being kind to your fellow human being. Whenever possible.

Its a way of life, a state of being.

To read about the honey debate and other discussions about colony collapse disorder and more, read the complete article at http://www.slate.com/id/2196205
Some more information about the cruelty in the honey industry. http://www.veganpeace.com/animal_cruelty/honey.htm

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