Here's PETA's (People for Extreme Terrorist Acts)
take on our hobby (hint, they don't like us)
Profiting from honey requires the manipulation and exploitation of the insectsâ€™ desire to live and protect their hive. Like other factory-farmed animals, honeybees are victims of unnatural living conditions, genetic manipulation, and stressful transportation.
The familiar white box that serves as a beehive has been around since the mid-1850s and was created so that beekeepers could move the hives from place to place. The New York Times reported that bees have been â€œmoved from shapes that accommodated their own geometry to flat-topped tenements, sentenced to life in file cabinets.â€(19)
Since â€œswarmingâ€ (the division of the hive upon the birth of a new queen) can cause a decline in honey production, beekeepers do what they can to prevent it, including clipping the wings of a new queen, killing and replacing an older queen after just one or two years, or confining a queen who is trying to begin a swarm.(20, 21) There are also commercial â€œqueen rearersâ€ who raise and mail about a million queen bees a year all over North America. Many of the animals die in transit.(22) Queens are artificially inseminated using drones, who are killed in the process.(23) Commercial beekeepers also â€œtrickâ€ queens into laying more eggs by adding wax cells to the hive that are larger than those that worker bees would normally build.(24)
Some farmers kill all the bees in the fall because itâ€™s easier than winterizing the hives. One beekeeper admits that one of his friends â€œuses canisters of cyanide gas to exterminate 6,000 colonies of bees at the conclusion of the production season. It is the most economical way to run his operation.â€(25) Each hive that is left to hibernate through the winter needs at least 50 pounds of honey to survive, and according to one entomologist, many bees succumb to improper care, starvation, weakness, and other problems during the winter.(26)
Honeybee populations have declined by as much as 50 percent since the 1980s, partly because of parasitic mites.(27) BeeCulture magazine reports that beekeepers are notorious for contributing to the spread of disease: â€œBeekeepers move infected combs from diseased colonies to healthy colonies, fail to recognize or treat disease, purchase old infected equipment, keep colonies too close together, [and] leave dead colonies in apiaries.â€(28) Artificial diets, provided because farmers take the honey that bees would normally eat, leave bees susceptible to sickness and attack from other insects.(29) When diseases are detected, beekeepers are advised to â€œdestroy the colony and burn the equipment,â€ which can mean burning or gassing the bees to death.(30)
Since healthy honeybees are becoming harder and harder to find, farmers have resorted to trucking hives across the country. When asked to examine 2,000 beehives rented by a New Jersey cranberry farmer, retired apiary inspectors found â€œabout 500 colonies with equipment in such bad shape that [it] would not even qualify as junk â€¦ mice nests, old feeders full of comb, rotten hive with bees coming out from all over.â€ The hives were also made of wood that was labeled as having been treated with arsenic and was, therefore, unsuitable for beehives.(31)
Bears are also victims of the honey industry. The government of Maryland compensates beekeepers for electric fences around hives, and Virginia beekeepers have asked their legislature to allow them to kill bears.(32)
What You Can Do
Avoid honey, beeswax, propolis, royal jelly, and other products that come from bees. Vegan lip balms and candles are readily available. Visit CaringConsumer.com for a list of companies that donâ€™t use animal products. Rice syrup, molasses, sorghum, barley malt, maple syrup, and dried fruit or fruit concentrates can be used to replace honey in recipes. Call 1-888-VEG-FOOD or visit GoVeg.com to order a free vegetarian starter kit that contains information about compassionate eating choices.