“We won it for the bees“, Avaaz announced, when Europe banned pesticides. So what’s my problem with this you may ask. Well, as a vegan and related anti-capitalist, banning pesticides misses the underlying source of the problem. That isn’t to say I am all for pesticides; banning them will just not address the real reasons for the demise of bees and why increasingly our food sources are at risk.
So the connection between capitalism and honey bees? Well, it comes down to the connection between profit, exploitation and false needs. We don’t need to eat honey – it is a false need. We trap and exploit honey bees in order to produce endless supply of money, restricting their freedom of movement and even interfering with their living arrangements to increase ‘productivity’ and thus profit, often involving full-time factory based production.
Freedom? Interfering? How? Well, one example is how Queens, despite being able to live for up to 5 years, are ‘replaced’ every 1-2 years by commercial beekeepers in order to “prevent swarming, aggression, mite infestation, and to keep honey production at a maximum“. This relates to commercial suppliers of bees transporting the bees around the world in disgusting conditions. Such travel also spreads diseases, threatening bees. Queen bees, once bought, often have their wings ripped off so they don’t fly away.
Some bees are even killed before the winter to increase profits, with colonies killed “in the fall, to extract and sell most of the honey that would have been consumed during the winter months and start with package bees the following spring.” Also, “commercial beekeepers frequently extract [steal] all fall-season honey and then feed colonies either sugar syrup or corn syrup in quantities great enough to provide all the winter food the bees would need.”
Importantly, and this is the key point in terms of ignoring the underlying source of the problems:
While ultimately it seems desirable to have few to no honeybee colonies, in the short-term, the irresponsible behavior of beekeepers is actually increasing their monopoly on pollination. Farmers who used to rely on feral honeybees for pollination must now rent managed colonies. The pollination situation reached a crisis point and honeybeekeepers emerged as the savior when, in fact, they are at the root of the problem. Additionally, the spread of Africanized honeybees will displace European honeybees and threaten the ability to manage colonies easily. Farmers have become dependent on honeybees, but someday soon, beekeepers in some areas may simply be unable to provide colonies for pollination. And, yes, the Africanized honeybee is completely man’s fault–it was accidentally released from an experiment in South America and continues to spread northward….There is ample evidence for the fact that honeybees crowd out not only other bee pollinators, but also birds, honey possums and other insects (Buchmann & Nabham 174-182; Buchmann 129; Sugden 154; Kato et al.)…Loss of the native pollinators would be bad because honeybees only pollinate 16-22% of all wild plants needing pollination (Roubik 169). In addition to the threat from the honeybees, native pollinators are in decline due to habitat destruction and fragmentation, chemical farming, monocropping and insecticides, all of which only exacerbate the competition with honeybees (Sugden 156).
Additionally, more on this important point about there being better natural pollinators than honeybees:
We’ve been tricked into believing that honey is simply a byproduct of the essential pollination provided by farmed honeybees. Did you know though that the honeybee’s wild counterparts (such as bumblebees, carpenter and digger bees) are much better pollinators? They are also less likely than farmed honeybees to be affected by mites and Africanized bees. The issue is that these native bees can hibernate for up to 11 months out of the year and do not live in large colonies. Thus, they do not produce massive amounts of honey. Enter a $157 million dollar a year industry…
So again it comes down to money that the beekeepers make. A classic example of exploitation and the problems when animal interests and human interests, especially false needs and money, cross each other and the consequentially devastating effect this has had on the environment, pollinators and the bee population. The whole process is only undermining natural processes that ensure efficient pollination of food sources that are now in danger. However, as shown by sound bites such as “inspired by the beekeepers“, by Avaaz, the cause of the problems for the bee population and food sources in general have been ignored through a fantastic bit of PR.
Whilst the problems we have got are going to take more than not eating honey, stopping funding such exploitation that is threatening better pollinators is key to us helping tackle such abuse and environmental damage. Banning pesticides will not stop these practices that are based around making more money and profit. Stopping eating and consuming honey is essentially an anti-capitalist practice. If you are against exploitation, false needs and environmental damage you should not eat honey. Honey bees have been truly used and abused, with the ongoing environmental damage, despite the pesticides ban, potentially catastrophic.
Approximately one out of every three mouthfuls of food or drink that humans consume is made possible by pollinators—insects, birds, and mammals pollinate about 75 percent of all food crops.(14) Industrial beekeepers want consumers to believe that honey is just a byproduct of the necessary pollination provided by honeybees, but honeybees are not as good at pollinating as many truly wild bees, such as bumblebees and carpenter and digger bees. Native bees are active earlier in the spring, both males and females pollinate, and they are unaffected by mites and Africanized bees, which can harm honeybees.(15) But because most species of native bees hibernate for as many as 11 months out of the year and do not live in large colonies, they do not produce massive amounts of honey, and the little that they do produce is not worth the effort required to steal it from them.(16,17) So although native bees are more effective pollinators, farmers continue to rely on factory-farmed honeybees for pollination so that the honey industry can take in more than 176 million pounds of honey every year, at a value of more than $215 million.(18)
It’s all about making money. Don’t help fund this exploitation and the destruction of the environment.