Bee Ethics: The Battle Continues



In my previous post I have started a heated fictional discussion between a beekeeper and a vegan/animal right activist.

Find out what happens next…


battle continues

Vegan/animal right activist: Do you consider how disturbing your actions must be to the bees? There are studies out there that have shown us a new perspective about insects and pain. Some insects avoid negative stimuli, which is an indication that they are sentient. They are living organisms, after all! No human interference, means no more stressing and crushing bees!

Beekeeper: Crushing bees is unavoidable, indeed. But colonies are amazingly resilient, and can expand very quickly. A loss of a few individuals won’t be a big deal to the hive as a totality. Bees have good hygienic behaviour and are very industrious: they clean up the mess and carry on.

Vegan/animal right activist: How do you justify the stress you cause when you transport hives from one location to another? They might suffocate on the way!

Beekeeper: We aim to do this under the best conditions as possible. We strap the hive tightly together so it doesn’t fall to pieces on the way. We make sure it is not too hot or too cold. We take them on the back of a ute, so that the hive stays well ventilated and the bees can breathe. We won’t visit friends on the way, and we even avoid taking a break at the petrol station: we go straight for our destination to get the bees grounded as soon as possible.

Vegan/animal right activist: How do you justify using nasty chemicals in the hive for pesticide treatment?

Beekeeper: First of all I would like to emphasise that in New Zealand it is forbidden by law to use drugs for curing bee-diseases. However, we are allowed to use chemicals for pesticide treatment and especially right now it is absolutely necessary. At the moment the biggest enemy of the bee is the Varroa mite. This is such a dangerous enemy; there are simply no effective organic alternatives.  If we want bees to survive Varroa, the only way we can effectively help them is with chemical strips. The bees won’t enjoy it, but in the right dose this chemical doesn’t hurt them. In fact, it saves their life.

Vegan/animal right activist: How do you justify the artificial feeding regime you put them under?

Beekeeper: we feed bees a sugar syrup. This is a mix of water and sugar. Organic beekeepers feed them honey, but for most beekeepers this option is too expensive. Yes, it is artificial, but we simply do it to support the bees when they can’t find enough food themselves. Especially in winter, when food sources are scarce.

Vegan/animal right activist: Bees are very good in sourcing their own food. They can fly up to 5km. If you didn’t steal their honey they wouldn’t need artificial feeding!

Beekeeper: This is not true for new, beginning hives. They are often very weak and need the additional support. In nature, these hives would have a great struggle for survival. We simply make live a bit easier for them. And we don’t take honey from these weak hives. We acknowledge that they need all their honey to survive winter.

Vegan/animal right activist: Still, don’t you think you overwork your hives? By putting on all these extra stores boxes, the  industrious bees exhaust themselves in trying to fill everything up with honey. Only so that you can take it away from them! What makes you think that we humans deserve the sweet gold product of their hard labour? Give them a break, leave them alone.

Beekeeper: It’s not as if we take and don’t give anything back. As I’ve said before, we always make sure that they get enough food and that the hive is balanced and healthy.

Vegan/animal right activist: I still don’t think that this outweighs the negative effects. Remember how important the survival of bees is to the world: they pollinate about 90% of our crops!  You breed, buy and sell them: how could you not call that exploitation?

Beekeeper: Indeed, pollination through bees is very important. And that’s exactly why it’s so important that we keep bees and encourage bee populations to thrive. We look after them and encourage even more people to start keeping bees!


You see, it’s quite a tricky debate and both parties are very sure about their position. Too often they find ways around each other’s argument and keep their opinions firmly. And this is not even nearly a picture of a complete discussion…

What do you think? Let me know!


I have derived the vegan arguments in my ‘fictional debate’ from the Vegan Society and Animal Right Activist websites.


One thought on “Bee Ethics: The Battle Continues

  1. Pingback: Why don’t Bees Teleconference while Building a HIVE? | Jaggi

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