Burt’s Bees used to be one of my favorite brands, and I stopped buying from them completely when I went vegan. However, after scouring the Internet for vegan lip products I have stumbled upon them all over again, which inspired this blog post. Burt’s Bees have an amazing bee philosophy which you can read all about on their website. They support many wonderful organizations that promote bee welfare and have their own foundation: The Burt’s Bees Greater Good Foundation. They are eco-friendly, too! They are certified carbon-neutral and send zero waste to landfill. Companies like this set an example for ethical trading, and it’s for this reason that I have decided to start purchasing from them again.
Back to the point. Is honey vegan? Every person I’ve spoken to about this seems to have a slightly different opinion, and I don’t think there’s a completely right answer to this question. From the research that I did, it seemed clear to me that mass-produced honey is not vegan. It seems that most (although I can’t speak for all) mass-harvested honey is taken from beehives to be replaced by a synthetic substance which has nowhere near the same nutritional value as honey, which they work year-round to build stores of. Bees then end up over-working to replenish their stores, dying throughout the winter due to lack of resources, or even dying when they sting farmers during harvest. In addition to this, selective breeding to increase honey production narrows the gene pool which increases susceptibility to disease. Vegan or not, I think most people will agree these things are awful to read, not only for bees themselves but for the devastating effect their demise may have on our entire ecosystem.
However, just like many vegans will eat eggs if they come from happy hens (I don’t mean the kind you can buy in the supermarket, I mean the kind you get from the chickens living happily in your back yard with ample room and food), you can also buy “happy” honey. Obviously, it’s down to individual farmers and whether or not you really believe that honey can be harvested completely ethically. But many local beekeeper practice “balanced beekeeping”. Balanced beekeeping focuses on bee welfare and facilitating the natural behavior of bees, whilst harvesting honey and other bee products only when it is appropriate, i.e. in excess. You could argue that you can never tell when honey is excess, just like you can argue that you can never know whether or not a chicken on a field is truly contented. There isn’t a simple answer to this question and whether honey is vegan or not, it’s entirely up to you if you include this wonderful product in your skin care or lifestyle routine.