There’s a popular internet myth continuously circulating claiming that avocados are not vegan. The idea was thrust into the mainstream via BBC’s QI panel show in 2018. It’s all to do with honey, Sandi Toksvig and migratory beekeeping. Vegan hypocrisy of the first order or an intentional muddying of the waters?
Is Opposing Migratory Beekeeping Vegan Hypocrisy?It is claimed that vegans who reject honey on the grounds of animal exploitation are hypocritical. Many people believe foods like almonds and avocados are not vegan because honey bees are used in industrial scale migratory beekeeping operations to pollinate the crop. It follows that rejecting honey but not avocados is hypocritical. Case closed?
Watch: Mic The Vegan on the evils of the avocado
(Mic gets to the crux of the matter in this vid)
Let’s Play ‘Bash-a-Vegan’ Today
They find ever more creative ways to sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of those who choose veganism and in the process, they empower those who seek to deride vegans, for whatever reason.
It is against this backdrop that we must see the debate around how avocados (and other crops) are not vegan because the farmers have to use factory bees to pollinate them in a process known as migratory beekeeping.
Ergo this is animal exploitation and by definition, not vegan!
It’s a convincing argument and a potent tool in the vegan-basher’s toolbox. For those who don’t fully understand the nature of veganism, BBC presenter Sandi Toksvig has executed a proper mind job.
BBC’s Sandi Toksvig: Renowned Beekeeping Expert
I’ve mentioned Mrs Toksvig a couple of times now so what on earth has a Danish-British writer got to do with migratory beekeeping and vegan hypocrisy?
Well, if the idea was seeded in the public discourse by some meat industry shill then Sandi took it to the next level on the popular BBC panel show QI, confidently relaying the information to the masses.
But of course it’s not Toksvig’s fault. The producers of the show picked up this little nugget from somewhere. Probably Reddit or Facebook or whatever.
With a media titan like the BBC now disseminating this claim, the bottom feeders at fine establishments like the Daily Mail took on the story with gusto.
Any opportunity for a bit of vegan-bashing is like red meat to these parasites.
Let’s try to avoid getting overly emotional about this though and stay objective. Is there actually an issue for vegans here?
Migratory Beekeeping: Is It Necessary?
Pollinators are an essential cog in the machine of food production systems across the globe. Before the onset of industrial agriculture, crops were pollinated naturally by the indigenous bees and other insects like beetles, butterflies and wasps.
… and of course they still are, to some degree. It’s pretty difficult to stop insects flying around and landing on plants, after all.
The problem is we now have vast swathes of monoculture arable crops planted to maximise the field area. Farming machinery is now pretty good at ploughing and sowing to within a foot or two of the hedgerow.
This leaves much less and more fragmented ‘wild’ land for the natural pollinators to use so guess what happens? They go elsewhere and try to find land which hasn’t been obliterated by modern agricultural practices.
To address the problem, migratory beekeeping is the solution we have adopted.
It’s a ‘solution’ that sees billions of bees shuttled around the US on an annual basis, following the flowers and the ‘honey flow’. The numbers are actually staggering. Scientific American looked at the California almond crop but avocados also fit into this picture along with many other fruits and vegetables.
Meat Eaters: You’re Not Off The Hook On This One!
When it comes to the problems associated with migratory beekeeping, meat and dairy production would seem, at first glance, to be exempt from any blame.
In the US the vast majority of crops grown to feed animals on feedlots and dairy farms do not need insect pollinators. Corn is the best example, accounting for 95% of total feed grain production, it is pollinated by the wind.
Soy is another big crop used to feed animals and this is self pollinated. So meat and dairy marketing boards readily use these facts to exonerate their industries.
But their arguments soon fall apart like a cheap suit even under the slightest scrutiny.
We have to ask ourselves why has so much wild, natural habitat been lost? Habitats which are rich in biodiversity and ideal for natural pollinators.
While it’s true that we eat a lot of avocados, meat and dairy production accounts for 75% plus of the usable agricultural land on the planet.
The monoculture systems used to feed the billions of animals we exploit are a huge driver of natural habitat loss. This in turn drives much of the demand for migratory beekeeping.
As if the meat and dairy barons didn’t have enough to deal with fending off the ever growing body of evidence showing their industry plays a large part in the climate emergency; not to mention the barbaric cruelty … but that’s another article.
Don’t Let Perfection Be The Enemy Of The Good
Everything we humans do has an impact on the world around us. There is no getting away from that. Just the simple act of going for a walk in the countryside will result in some insects dying.
These are the sorts of arguments put forward by those anti-vegans who try to find any tiny little angle they can to ‘prove’ their belief that veganism is misguided and hypocritical.
But anyone with a modicum of intelligence between the ears will know these arguments are at best disingenuous and at their worst, downright dangerous.
We don’t live in a perfect world. We likely never will.
Veganism is all about doing the best we can given the circumstances we find ourselves in. One basic requirement of life is that we need sustenance. We have to eat.
Vegans choose to avoid products which cause pain and suffering to the other animals we share our amazing planet with … as much as is practically possible.
If it’s a choice between starvation and colony collapse disorder then guess which one vegans will go with?
We see the awful cruelty dished out to our livestock animals on a daily basis and we reject that. If it means we have to put up with migratory beekeeping as the alternative then so be it.
Because we sure as hell are not going back to eating meat any time soon!
So Why Don’t Vegans Eat Honey? Blatant Hypocrisy?
Every vegan has to accept migratory beekeeping keeps us all fed but most vegans don’t eat honey – the end product of the practice.
How do we square this one with ourselves? Surely this is just pure hypocrisy on our part.
Well, again, it comes back to not letting perfection be the enemy of the good.
The honey is for the bees, not for humans. Avoiding honey on our morning toast is one small thing we can do to reduce the market’s demand for honey, leaving more for the bees to get them through their winter months.
Of course, if migratory beekeeping could be avoided then even better but we currently don’t have that option. In the future there is talk of creating armies of robot pollinators and this will eventually become a reality, I have no doubt.
We will almost certainly be able to achieve near 100% crop pollination in a world of AI, GPS and bee microbots!
But until that time comes, vegans will continue to do the best we can in the full knowledge that not everything we eat has a zero cruelty footprint!
We take solace in the fact that we’re not responsible for the systematic abuse and slaughter of 80 billion terrified land animals every year.
Avocados Are As Vegan As They Can Be
The entire debate around whether avocados are vegan or almonds, apples or alfalfa for that matter, is a massive red herring. Many of the fruits and vegetables we all enjoy need to be pollinated by insects.
This includes plums, blueberries, cherries, lettuce, peppers and many others. If we concluded that none of these foods are vegan then there’d be very little left for us to eat.
Obviously a ridiculous proposal because returning to eating dead animals or drinking baby calf rearing fluid is simply not an option.
Avocados and all these other pollinated fruits and veggies are as vegan as they can be in our current food production system.
Yes, it would help if more arable farmers left a wild border around their fields to encourage indigenous pollinators to return. Yes, technology will play a huge part in optimising our agricultural practice in future.
In the meantime, vegans will do everything possible to minimise the suffering, abuse and killing of our sentient animal friends caught up in the madness of our meat and dairy industries.
We are driving the change … hopefully we’re in time.
I hope you enjoyed my take on the vegan avocado debate and it has helped you to see the picture a little bit more in the round. I’d love to know what you think so use the comments to enlighten me and please do share with your friends using the socials below …
Thanks for reading!
This post was originally published on: Jul 24th, 2022 at 14:12 and updated with further content, sources and images on: Jan 2nd, 2023 at 12:24