When you tell somebody you’re vegan and they ask you what it entails the honey aspect is usually what tips them over edge to thinking you’re ridiculous. “What harm can a bit of honey do? The bee’s give it to us for free!” is one of the most common arguments I hear. It’s not just between vegans and meat eaters either, I’ve seen many vegans arguing about honey online. So what’s the real answer?
Vegan Life Magazine have tried to tackle the controversial argument in their January/February issue by comparing the for and against arguments. As usual they have left it up to their readers to decide what to believe but I don’t think this is a difficult decision at all.
The yes camp use the argument that not eating honey is what gives vegans such a bad name. People think we’re pedantic and over the top. Why do we care about bees? It can’t have escaped your attention that bees are in dramatic decline all over the world. Colony collapse disorder is causing hives to literally become empty shells overnight and scientists are baffled as to why. It is thought that it could be pesticides which are killing off our bees or possibly the changes to their natural environment. What is certain is that the extinction of bees would be extremely dangerous to human kind with many of our foods disappearing with them as they are not being pollinated.
Honey is a natural food and can be harvested without harming the bees but unfortunately that usually isn’t the case. Bee’s create honey so that they have food to eat over the winter when pollen is hard to come by. If we take that honey we have to then feed them with an artificial alternative so that they can still feed. This is usually made with processed sugar, a very unnatural alternative. Honey is extremely nutritious which is one of the reasons we take it, can you imagine what happens to the bees that are fed this ridiculous alternative?
To keep up with the demand for honey beekeepers often add new layers to the hives so that the bees carry on reproducing and therefore produce more honey from their offspring. This is not natural and causes increased stress and often death. A bee would rather work itself to death than let it’s offspring die and yet the honey isn’t going anywhere near the young but being taken for humans to enjoy instead.
The vegan lifestyle is about caring for animals and not taking advantage of them for our own benefit. While people may argue that keeping bees is stopping them from becoming extinct, nothing could be further from the truth. Keeping these vulnerable insects in hives and stealing the food they would give to their children is not what I call care. Someone who exploits bees by eating their honey cannot call themselves a vegan.
Today I want to point you towards a blogger and cookbook writer who strangely enough, is not vegan! Jack Monroe came to everyone’s attention when she started her blog about budget family cooking a few years back. Since then she’s become a beacon of hope for anyone who is currently suffering in the terrible political climate in Britain today. She’s well known for feeding herself and her son for just £10 a week when she was waiting for benefits to be paid to her which never seemed to turn up. Unfortunately this is more and more common now and many families are struggling to cope.
On her blog and in her books many of the recipes tend to be vegan because vegetables and rice are much cheaper than a steak! I follow the blog and own the first book and there are a surprising amount of recipes that I can use. Jack has gone a step further now and introduced a vegan section on her website to make it even easier for us vegan fans!
Here are a list of the most exciting vegan and gluten free (or easily adaptable) recipes I’ve found so far:
Carrot and Coriander Falafel
Penne Pappa al Pomodoro
Carrot, Cumin and Kidney Bean Burgers
Roasted Carrot, Chickpea and Garlic Soup
Red Lentil Bolognese
For the rest of her vegan recipes have a look here.
Have you used any of Jack Monroe’s recipes? What did you think?
Up until not long ago my go-to quick and easy food when I was away from home was any product made by Goodlife. This vegetarian company changed all of it’s products to vegan back in 2011, a huge step for the vegetarian industry I’m sure you’ll agree.
If you keep an eye on vegetarian freezer foods I’m sure you’ve noticed that Goodlife have had a makeover. The new boxes are colourful and look fun but hang on… is that cheese?
That’s right, Goodlife have taken a huge step backwards and reintroduced cheese products into their sausages. Their french bean and spinach sausages sound delicious until you find out that they’re full of wensleydale cheese, crème fraiche and eggs. Beetroot sausages are an original and exciting flavour but the addition of feta cheese and egg means they’re not to be enjoyed by vegans. Tomato and basil sausages? Bring it on! Hold the mozzarella and eggs though. Cauliflower cheese sausages? You get the point.
Don’t get me wrong, Goodlife still have two products that are suitable for vegans and one of them is also gluten free. The spicy veg beanburgers with chipotle chilli sound amazing and the picador parsnip and sweet carrot nut burgers with crunchy cashews even more so. Unfortunately I will not get to sample these burgers as I, along with many other vegans, have decided not to support a company that goes back on it’s vegan values so it can make more money from the vegetarian customers. I’m sure their new range will be very successful and the animal suffering involved will be forgotten behind the sound of ringing tills. If you are like me though, you will not want to be any part of this exploitation of animals for the benefit of the owners of this company with questionable morals.
Last night I was catching up on one of my favourite programmes, Come Dine With Me. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Come Dine With Me is a reality show where 5 strangers take it in turn to host a dinner party and mark each other secretly. I’m used to seeing meat being prepared on this show as you are lucky if there is even one vegetarian in each episode. When there is a vegetarian the choices are usually very limited (Roasted Pepper Tart, Quorn or Risotto anyone?) but the host is usually happy to cater for their guest’s beliefs.
Last night the episode I watched had a vegetarian on it who was graced with the bog standard veggie fare. After she’d tucked into her red pepper starter though the host thought it would be amusing to plonk a pigs head on the table in front of her. Unsurprisingly the girl shot out of her seat and was reduced to tears. The other diners were shocked that the host had done it and when confronted he uttered the well-known phrase “she didn’t have respect for my beliefs”.
The point I want to make here is that vegetarians and vegans are not refusing to eat meat just to be awkward. We refuse to eat meat because we are disgusted that animals are tortured and killed. I know that many meat eaters have become desensitivied to the sight of dead animals and meat but consider what that dead pigs head looks like to us. It’s the head of a corpse and we don’t think it’s a joke. Respect goes both ways. Just as I wouldn’t show you documentaries of the cruelty of factory farms while you eat your steak, don’t put a pigs head on the table as I’m trying to eat my peppers.
Welcome to day 3 of Vegan MOFO! My theme for the month is making recipes from non-vegan books both vegan and gluten free. However, on Wildcard Wednesdays I will be taking a break from my theme to discuss topics about veganism.
I hope you’ve come across the brilliant new vegan magazine that hit the shelves this month! It’s full of recipes and insightful articles and is a thought provoking read from cover to cover. One of the interesting articles in the first issue of Vegan Life was a discussion called “If you have rescued hens, is it acceptable to eat their eggs?”
In my opinion eating any kind of eggs is against the key principle of veganism which is that we don’t eat animal products. No exceptions! This does pose the question of what to do with eggs that are lain by your rescued chickens. The article argues that food waste is a huge problem in this country and therefore throwing edible eggs away would be criminal.
I agree with the point that if you eat eggs you cannot call yourself a vegan. But is the label more important than the lifestyle? I’d like to know your opinions on this controversial topic! Would you eat eggs?
Vegan MOFO 2013 – Why I Don’t Eat Eggs
This week there has been a lot of talk about the benefits of organic eating. If you have been watching the news you will have seen many debates about whether eating organically is actually better for your health or not. This has been a long argued debate over the years and there are extreme opinions on both sides of the fence. When I heard of the scientific study “proving” that organic food was healthier than regular food it was music to my ears. However, after a bit of research I am a bit sceptical of the results.
The study in question can be found here. The results showed that organic produce had higher levels of the antioxidants which can contribute to good health than those that had been grown conventionally. They also contained lower levels of dangerous pesticides and other chemicals. The team who carried out the study have claimed that the significant health benefits are equivalent to eating another 1 or 2 portions of fruit or vegetables a day. There has been controversy however, with sceptics arguing that the methodology is questionable and that the results are being exaggerated.
The study involved compiling the results of 343 previous experiments which found a significant difference in the composition of organic and non organic foods. This kind of analysis does come with many problems, the worst of which being the difference in methodology in the studies that are being compared. In the introduction of this paper the authors admit that there were “major research synthesis challenges” and that there could have been variations in soil quality and the crop varieties used in the studies. The sceptics have also acknowledged this claiming that the differences could be based on any number of factors and may not be due to whether the crops were grown organically or not.
So the debate rages on and many families are still left confused about whether they should be spending the extra money on organic food for their children’s health. For me the debate about the health benefits of organic food is not the end of the story. According to the Soil Association 44% of the people buying organic foods in this country are doing it , at least in part, for environmental reasons. Conventional farming was developed to fight food shortages and made food much cheaper to grow and buy. It is true that buying organically will probably cost you more money but the thing to consider is whether it’s really worth it at the sacrifice of the environment we depend on. Pesticides and herbicides cause soil degradation and pollute rivers and other water systems. As a country we spend billions of pounds cleaning these chemicals out of our drinking water which makes you worry about the quality of the water our wildlife is drinking. As well as this, the chemicals used in our food systems have been thought to be causing huge damages to the populations of our native bees. I don’t need to tell you how much danger we will be in if our bees become extinct.
For me organic food is healthier as the vitamins I’m gaining do not come with a side serving of chemicals. The reactions to this article have me asking a question I find myself asking again and again at the moment. Why do we consider ourselves as more important than the environment we live in? How much more do we think the environment can take?
I’ll happily hand over the extra pound for my organic bananas. Will you?
Bees and Honey – A Vegan Perspective
Find out more:
Clear differences between organic and non-organic food, study finds – The Guardian
What is organic food? – The Soil Association
The original study
This week David Cameron and his cabinet will be deciding whether to let banned pesticides be used on rapeseed fields across the country. It has previously been shown that these chemicals pose a major risk to our already struggling bees. Reintroducing the pesticides could have a devastating effect on the populations of honey bees which pollinate a third of the food we eat. This is just further proof that the Conservative party have more interest in helping wealthy companies than looking after their own people.
The company in question here is called Syngenta and is one of two companies in the UK which produce these deadly pesticides. Syngenta have asked for emergency exemption from the existing EU ban due to what they say is a lack of scientific evidence that neonicotinoids have any negative effects on bees. They argue that crops need to be protected from aphids and other insects and that there are no suitable alternatives to the pesticides they produce. Interestingly the scientists disagree with this analysis claiming that alternatives can be used. Considering that Syngenta makes billions each year from selling neonicotinoids, I’m more inclined to believe the scientists here.
David Cameron needs to look at the reason the ban was imposed in the first place. Last year the EU banned the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops including rapeseed. These pesticides are used to treat the seeds directly rather than being sprayed on the top of crops. This means that every part of the plant is potentially dangerous and the nectar eaten by the bees is full of the chemicals. Studies have shown that ingesting the pesticides can cause high levels of mortality in populations of bees. It can also damage their ability to find their way back to the hive after feeding and can stop them from producing queens to survive the winter. As the pesticide has to be in the seed from the very beginning it also means that the pesticides are not used in response to pest numbers but are used constantly. There is therefore a constant danger. It is not just bees that are effected by these chemicals either. As they leach into the soil and water systems it has been found that they damage earthworms and creatures living in local rivers.
Of course Syngenta were not going down without a fight and there were claims that they had done their own studies on populations of bees outside the lab and found that the chemicals had no effect on bee colonies. The question I’d like to ask is if these studies have been completed, where are the reports? I personally would like to read and analyse the studies before being sure that they were accurate. Another objection they had was that the scientists were only looking at the worst case scenario. In this case the worst case scenario is so bad it doesn’t bear thinking about but again, a company like this only thinks with their bank accounts.
This month Obama instigated assessments into the effects of neonicotinoids on bees in the USA. It seems the rest of the world is beginning to wake up to the dangers of a life without bees and yet again David Cameron is taking us backwards. If you agree that these disgusting chemicals should not touch our crops then please sign this petition!