Sunday, April 6, 2008

More confused thinking about veganism and honey

Here's another person who identifies as vegan, but would be willing to make an exception for honey (though she hasn't yet). Laura, a university student writing for Taste Better argues that "...bees feel pretty much nothing..." and organic and small-scale beekeeping "isn't really exploitation", and besides "there really is no way... to live without harming others..."

But do bees really feel nothing? Their nervous system is a lot simpler than ours, which leads many to assume that they don't feel as much as we do. But there is no way for us to ever know what it is like perceiving the world from an apian perspective. However, even with such a simple nervous system, bees can communicate with each other in a surprisingly sophisticated way. As vegans, I think we should give bees the benefit of the doubt, just as we do with other invertebrates such as lobsters.

Laura's line of reasoning that organic/small scale beekeeping isn't so bad, and we can't live without harming others, could also be used to justify organic/small scale farming, etc. etc. and often is, though normally by omnivores. In the future, are we going to see omnivores calling themselves "vegan" because they consume only certain animals (fish, invertebrates), or because they "know" that their meat was raised "ethically"?

The misuse of "vegetarian" to include fish and chicken eaters already causes a lot of aggravation to people who really are vegetarian--years ago during a hospital stay, I was served "vegetarian" meals that included large amounts of nasty-smelling dead tuna fish. Now "vegan" is being misused. Already some "vegan" restaurants are serving honey, meaning that even in should-be vegan establishments, vegans have to go through the tedious questions about ingredients.

Go ahead and eat what you want, but if you're eating animal products like honey, please call yourself something other than vegan.

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