I like to think, as everyone does, that I'm quite a one for living and let living. But I'll confess to my shackles shooting up when some vegans get prancy about honey products. Perhaps it's my disproportionate love of honey that makes me disproportionately angry over the issue, but I know for a fact - because I know a bunch of vegans who eat honey - that there's some debate over whether or not bee products can be part of a real vegan diet. Yet the most recent issue of Vegetarian Times, that I subscribe to for the great recipes and because I only like eating meat a couple times a week, seems to be pandering to certain elements of its vegan readership by unquestioningly banishing honey from vegan recipes or a vegan diet.
I'm reminded of those heady, exploratory days in highschool and beyond when gay friends would get prancy about the sexual and emotional practices of bisexuals. "Choose already, make up your mind," was a common snark, which never seemed to come from the lips of breeders, who were more apt to say things like "keeping your options open, are you?" - much more à propos in a free society.
So - do vegans have to "choose, to make up their mind" to avoid anything to do with animals altogether? What is, after all, being vegan? Does one of the 'vegan societies' get to decide? To be genuine, must a vegan opt out of the cycle of plant and animal life that would be impossible to sustain without pollinating insects like lovely, lovely honeybees, who when they live in apiaries may have the fruit of their labour stolen but who are also sustained by their human collaborators? Humans who build them houses, keep them alive through long winters with sugar-water baths and climate controls, protect them from the bears and rodents that would break their hive apart, and drive them around the region to the areas with the best flowers at that moment in time?
I don't think it fits in with any reasonable conception of ethical eating, supposedly central to the vegan movement, to choose to buy stevia or other sweeteners that were farmed and processed god knows where, god knows how by god knows who - to put naive levels of trust in 'fair-trade' labels that promise the labour and production methods behind sweeteners are okay by the standards of whatever country tonnes of carbon dioxide has been burned to import them from - instead of, I don't know, choosing to TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE HONEYBEE'S INARGUABLE AND INARGUABLY BEAUTIFUL INSTINCT TO MAKE TOO MUCH FUCKING HONEY FOR ITS OWN HIVE. See, I'm getting angry now.
I don't think I get angry about it only because I love honey so very, very much, and think it's such a great thing for everybody to eat in great, gulping, unpasteurized mouthfuls. I think part of the anger is over a huge fucking disconnect between people's diets and their knowledge of where the food in it comes from, which is really baffling in someone who chooses a vegan and supposedly ethical lifestyle. It seems to me such people can't consider man's special relationship with the bee and see the element of collaboration there because they're too fucking ignorant of how honey can be harvested. That such people, who go for other sweeteners on principal, are the prey (as much as all the people who flock to McDick's for mighty slabs of processed meat) of international food companies who want to sell imported, processed products with higher profit margins than honey, which goes quite directly from the local hive to my local tummy just about anywhere flowers bloom. There are apiaries in the middle of an urban shithole like Paris, for god's sake. There are apiaries dizzyingly high up north in Canada.
It's also part of the way Vegetarian Times and sites like Ideal Bite have been disturbing me in terms of their galloping commercialism. They sell ready-made veggie and vegan products hard. Instead of just featuring advertising, they plug specific products in the text of articles with the hyper-capitalist devotion of a magazine like Maxim. Over-priced, over-processed, over-travelled products. So tangentially I get infuriated by the idea that my honey-gorging habits can be frowned on by a group of people who sustain that sort of galloping commercialism. I do believe a vegan diet can be a sustainable, healthy one that takes full advantage of ethical, local, CO2 conscious, labour-conscious unprocessed food shopping, but saying honey can't possibly be part of a 'real' vegan diet is a fucking stupid way to do that.