Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Vegetarian vs Vegan: And What Do Bees Have To Do With It? (Vegetarian/Vegan Information)

Recently when I was in Philly my sister brought me to this "vegan" natural soap store. This store made me sigh for two reasons. First (in a good way), because it was a small cute shop in which the owner ran and also made most of the products, which were mainly natural (some were all natural, some were I guess around 70-90% natural). It was similar to something that I would maybe like to own and run myself someday. But then I read the ingredients of the soap, and I sighed (in a bad way this time) because while they used a vegan base, they also used ingredients like beeswax, goats milk, and silk protein; making the soap not vegan. I didn't confront the owner about this (which I kind of regret) mainly because I am not a vegan and didn't want to get into an argument on what's vegan and not. I did buy two soaps which were vegan, but they were not the store brand but other brands that they stocked. Anyways I thought it would be a good time to pull out a very old question that I answered a long time ago on veganism vs vegetarianism, and bee/insect products. Also more on my thoughts on crafting vegan natural products.

What is the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan? And why do vegans avoid products from bees?

I'm just vegetarian, and not vegan (not yet anyhow), but the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan is that while both will not consume meat and products derived directly from an animal (like meat, meat stocks, marrow, gelatin, carmine, fur, and fish--though some people who consider themselves 'vegetarians' eat fish or chicken (which I don't understand)--, and some vegeterians wear leather and some don't), vegans go even further and do not consume any products that come from animals, even if it does not involve the death of the animals (like eggs, dairy, beeswax, honey, lanolin). People are vegetarian because of a wide range of reasons (cultural, religious, environmental, animal rights, health), but (as I see it) most people that are vegan are vegan because of animal rights reasons (though some may be vegan because of other reasons too).

In beekeeping the majority of the honey made by the bees (some companies 2/3 of the total honey produced, some all of the honey) is taken from the bees, and they are then given a sugar solution to last the winter. Also some companies (not all) may kill the queen bee each year, because it somehow increases honey production. Also in removing honey, other bees may accidentally be killed too (they scrap the beeswax and honey from the screens they use). Also some vegans do not agree with disrupting the natural cycles of the bees (most 'beehives' in honey producing are wooden boxes with removable screens). Many vegans feel that animals, including insects, should not be exploited in any shape or form by humans.

My thoughts on vegetarianism and veganism:
When I first became vegetarian about a dozen years ago, it was mainly due to environmental and animal rights reasons. Nowadays, it has involved into more of an environmental/spiritual reason, and also because of health. Last semester I took a seminar on urban wildlife (one of my focuses of my research), and researching for one of the assignments made me get back to thinking about the animal rights side of things, and in some strange way, back to a part of me. I don't know if I can ever be vegan diet wise (since I already have so many diet restrictions and have low B-12 levels, and went through hell the last couple years due to health problems partially due to this) but I'm trying to be more humane in the rest of my life. I no longer consume honey (I'm also hypoglycemic), and am trying to craft vegan all natural cosmetics (I see it as a challenge, especially since it is hard to find a truly all natural all vegan company on the market). Currently I still use beeswax and lanolin to craft since I have a ton left, but as soon as I'm out I have no plans to buy it again. I have also stopped using honey in cosmetics, and over two years ago stopped buying products with carmine in them (once I realized what carmine really was!). I recently crafted my first vegan cream, and am so proud of myself! My sister tried it and told me I should definitely sell it oneday! :)


Anonymous said...

Hey there,

Thanks for clarifying the difference for your readers. As an educator, I tend to use the word "vegetarian" as an umbrella term but it's helpful for people to know the difference. After reading your entry, I thought I would introduce myself and refer you to my website but more importantly my podcast "Vegetarian Food for Thought" http://feeds.feedburner.com/VegetarianFoodForThought. Through it (and the vegan cooking classes and nutrition courses I teach), I answer all the standard questions about veganism. My organization, if you're interested, is called Compassionate Cooks (http://www.compassionatecooks.com), and its mission is to empower people to make informed food choices and to debunk the myths about veganism and animal rights. I'm a columnist for VegNews Magazine and a contributor to KQED (local NPR) radio and Satya Magazine. My website has lots of resources you may find helpful. Anyway, good luck on your path, and take care. :)

Solarkat said...

Hi Compassionate Cook

Thanks for the resource :) I'll be sure to check it out.

Take care too :)