Tuesday, May 08, 2007

How sweet it is ... or isn't

With the world in bloom this May, I have been thinking about honey bees. I've always been fond of them. For one memorable school project, I designed an experiment to study their color preferences - no bees were harmed, of course. Neither was I, since honey bees are basically gentle creatures that prefer not to sting. And today I still enjoy honey from my father's hives.

But that puts me at odds with many vegans who avoid using honey, since it is an animal product. As Jo Stepaniak writes of honey in an Ask Jo! column, "from a vegan perspective there is no justifiable rationale for using it."

But there is another point of view. A column by Mark Hawthorne in Satya magazine argues that vegans' "public avoidance of honey is hurting us as a movement."

The advocacy group Vegan Outreach takes a similar view: "We tend to think that making an issue about honey allows people to marginalize vegans as being in favor of 'insect rights.' Most people won't yet face the pain and suffering involved in meat. Equating meat with honey probably makes the vegan case nonsensical to the average person."

It's an interesting argument. But that is not the only thought buzzing around my head lately.

Honey bees are in trouble.

A Washington Post article, "Mystery Ailment Strikes Honeybees," details how "a mysterious illness is killing tens of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country." The ailment, dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder, is such a serious issue that the N.C. Beekeepers' Association has created a special section on its page of links to keep track of articles on CCD.

And if the bees are in trouble, we may all be in trouble. After all, these bees are responsible for pollinating many of the fruits and vegetables that humans eat. According to figures from N.C. State University, "Honey bees are the most important insect pollinator for crops grown in North Carolina," directly accounting for nearly 68 percent - $88 million - of the fruits and vegetables grown in North Carolina each year.

Readers, what do you think? Do you feel strongly that honey should be excluded from a vegan diet? And do you have any ideas what we might be able to do as individuals - as comsumers or as gardeners - to help the beleagured bees?

3 Comments:

At 5/16/2007 10:35 AM, Blogger Andy said...

The health and medicinal properties of honey have been known and used for thousands of years. It is important that we treat this honey bee decline very seriously to save not only the product they produce but the plants that rely on them for pollenation. there is so much more I could say on the subject but I will limit it to this: eat raw honey (cooking or heating it destroys the enzymes and other nutrients - heated honey is no more than a tasty sweetener), plant clover in your yard not grass, and suport your local apiarier (honey farmers)!!

 
At 5/16/2007 10:38 AM, Blogger Andy said...

Apiaries I meant to say.

Also DO NOT SPRAY CHEMICALS ON YOUR LAWN!!!!! A grass monoculture - especially a chemically treated lawn - in disasterous to the honey bees!

 
At 5/17/2007 10:40 AM, Blogger Julie said...

Those are great points, Andy. I don't have a lawn, but I've always thought that f I did, I would plant dandelions and violets rather than grass. But clover is an even better idea....

 

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