Why Are Avocados Not Vegan?

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 has people asking questions like the one posed today here at Vegan Slate. You may have heard it’s to do with bees. Sounds a bit tenuous? Well …

Why Are Avocados Not Vegan? (spoiler: they are!)

 Some believe avocados are not vegan because honey bees are used on an industrial scale to pollinate the crop. Migratory beekeeping has become big business and as with many market driven practices, exploitation occurs somewhere in the chain. 

 

(Mic The Vegan gets to the crux of the matter in this vid)

 

The long tentacles of the meat and dairy industry permeate deep into the consciousness of almost every human on the planet! That might sound like an overly dramatic statement and maybe it is a little bit … but you get my drift.

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 you 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 especially for those who don’t fully understand the nature of veganism. Let me explain …

 

Migratory Beekeeping: Is It Necessary?

Why are avocados not vegan? (beekeeper holding a frame).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 indiginous 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 almost no ‘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.

So 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 Off The Hook On This One!

rows of corn image

If you’re thinking I’m going to frame this as a problem being driven by the meat and dairy industries then you’re wrong … this time 🙂

Yes, meat and dairy production accounts for 75% plus of the usable agricultural land on the planet and monoculture systems used to feed the billions of animals we exploit are a big problem.

But when it comes to migratory beekeeping, meat and dairy are not the issue.

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.

Soya is another big crop used to feed animals and this is self pollinated. So here is one problem we cannot lay at the feet of the meat and dairy barons!

Let’s face it, they have enough to deal with fending off the ever growing body of evidence showing their industry plays a large part in the climate emergency and not to mention the barbaric cruelty … but that’s another article.

 

Don’t Let Perfection Be The Enemy Of The Good

newton’s cradle image

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.

If we followed the logic absolutely then vegans would not be allowed to go for a walk.

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?

honey dripping from spoon image

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

avo on toast image Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

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 indiginous 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!

Rohan.

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