As I mentioned last week, I am dedicating a short blog to beeswax, as it is a controversial ingredient that is used in some of our products.  Why is it controversial?  Simply put, it is not vegan, by the standards of most vegans.   Please understand I do have friends who are vegan that still eat honey, and use products with beeswax in them.  My company has been denied listing on vegan sites, because I use beeswax (I will state again that we can and will make a vegan alternative, if requested).   Note: the vegan options do cost more, as the carnuba wax is more expensive than the beeswax, as it is harder to obtain.

Hey, I get it—there’s a host of natural and/or organic companies I don’t patronize, because they are owned by someone I don’t respect, or else their company standards don’t align with my beliefs.  So I understand why some vegans have problems with us using beeswax.   I do not wish to go on a moral rant, nor do I wish to start an argument with any sort of fascist mentality (regardless of which side of the fence that mentality lies on).  Let me simply explain why most vegans do not consider the use of beeswax as cruelty-free, and why my company does still use it, despite our cruelty-free certification.

“Beeswax (aka cera alba, cera lava) – is the wax from a bee’s hive. Bees must consume six or more pounds of honey in order to create one pound of wax. It is created by either being secreted by worker honeybees from four pairs of glands on the underside of their abdomens, or by secreting droplets of wax called ‘scales.’ It can be found in many forms of makeup, from eye shadow to foundation to lipstick.” Courtesy of http://gentleworld.org/ - there is a great deal of info on the process of honey here, should you care to research it and form your own opinion.

In short, there are two main reasons that vegans avoid beeswax, according to a bee activist I have on speed dial.  1- Honey and beeswax are an animal byproduct (meaning both are made from bees).  2 – There is an ethical viewpoint that using these products is simply stealing from another species –it’s respect for another creature more than anything else in this viewpoint.  The question was then posed “what if a colony suffered from collapse because no wax was used when bees didn’t return to the colony?  Would it then be OK to use the wax, rather than let it be wasted?”   Of course, this is a rhetorical question, as well as a rare circumstance (perhaps—with the increase of pesticides that are killing hives in large quantities, it may very well be a common reality!).  But the fact remains there is a gray area, when it comes to bees.  And I do not believe in black-or-white lines, in labels, nor do I believe in absolutes.  There are times I make a choice to support small bee farms and pollination, instead of the harvesting of trees that could potentially become extinct, should we use too much of their waxes.

Now understand my position, which will undoubtedly be refuted, belittled and argued with, in some circles.  But as I advise I am a cruelty-free company that uses beeswax, you deserve to understand my logic (in a VERY brief format!).

1 – My company is cruelty-free.  I have verified that all my suppliers do not perform animal testing.  I have also verified that my source of beeswax is from fair-trade farms that ethically harvest the wax (not in China where the harvesting standards are beyond questionable).   I do understand it is the food meant for bees themselves and taking wax and honey makes them work harder – part of being ethically harvested, is that there is plenty of food and wax left for the bees.  (No bees were killed in the writing of this blog!)  Beeswax also happens to be a superior healing agent, which is a HUGE factor in all of our recipes.

2- My company is eco-friendly.  I further understand that honey bees are not the only (and possibly are not the best) pollinators.  I also understand they are being used for profit, and many are not treated fairly.  I know a few different local bee farmers who simply don’t have honey, wax, or pollen available, because they have tiny hives, and there’s just not enough to go around for the bees and for us.  These farmers raise bees for profit (as long as the hive has extra, otherwise it’s a company expenditure).  Placing these farmers in a category with a company like Sue Bee is simply unfair – there are ethical farmers out there of all types, and we need to support them.  Regardless of who the best pollinator is, bees of every kind are crucial to our existence.  I choose to support their work and the work of small farms, by choosing sustainable wax.

3- My company is NOT vegan.  Being cruelty-free is not the same as being vegan and vice versa.  I have many vegan products, and will gladly make any product with carnuba wax, in replace of the beeswax I typically use.  I respect the views of everyone and what they believe, regardless of my own lifestyle choices (which is by the way technically, vegan).  My job is to educate, not dominate.  Our line of products is probably at least 80% vegan at the time of this blog, if not more.    At the time of this blog, we are also the only tattoo/piercing aftercare company that actually has a full line of vegan products (an ointment for the artist to tattoo clients with, a soap, a salve, and a mouthwash).

There you have it – should you have further questions or comments, feel free to email me.  For more information on bees and another side of bee farms, check out this site - it was an article in one of their magazines that inspired me to discuss the controversial bee farm topic.