As I mentioned in a previous post, here’s a quick article on the controversial ingredient beeswax used in some of my products.
What makes it controversial?
To most people, it’s not controversial at all. To strict vegans, however, it is. For that reason, it’s my duty as a thought-leader and product creator, to educate the public on the topic. For those who may not understand the controversy, you can read various comments and understand the issue. I’ll explain their argument here, as I empathize with it to a degree. I’ll also explain my position to vegans, hoping we can come to a compromise and open conversation of sorts.
Simply put, beeswax is not vegan by the standards of most vegans. Most? Yes, most. Not all vegans are strict about this rule. I have friends who consider themselves vegan, yet they occasionally eat honey and use products with beeswax in them. They’re not strict vegans, despite their public assertion of animal rights and exposition to the meat and dairy industry. I read an article on Quora today that summarized it nicely – the plight of bees takes less precedence to the horrific factory farming of cows, pigs, and chickens for many people.
Bee and factory farms are just not the same argument.
This isn’t an article about the choices and claims of my vegan friends who consume occasional bee products, so let’s avoid comments on “their hypocrisy,” according to your dogma. Please remember we’re all on the same side of the animal rights movement… a position that’s often forgotten in the strict vegan movement. Just because my views and their views don’t align with yours, doesn’t mean they aren’t having a huge impact on saving our planet. This isn’t a black-and-white issue, unfortunately. We’re all doing the best we can at the present moment. THAT is what matters.
They have denied my company listing on vegan sites because I use beeswax. Hey, I get it—there’s a host of natural and/or organic companies I don’t patronize because someone owns them whom I don’t respect, or their company standards don’t align with my beliefs.
As my products advise, however, I can and will GLADLY make a vegan alternative if requested. At least 80% of my skincare products are vegan by default. I’ve actually never had a vegan purchase any of the salves made with carnauba wax, so many of those items have come out of my shop page. There just isn’t a market for it in my business.
Note: the vegan options cost more, as the carnauba wax is more expensive than beeswax. This results from the production process; it’s not me capitalizing on a movement. The profit margin is the same, whether or not it’s a vegan product.
Here’s why many vegans do not consider the use of beeswax as cruelty-free and why my company still uses it, despite our cruelty-free certification. You’ll see that A does not equal B.
“Beeswax (AKA cera alba, cera lava)—is the wax from a bee’s hive. Bees must consume six or more pounds of honey to create one pound of wax. They create it by either secreting it 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 information on the process of honey there, should you care to research it and form your own opinion.
There are two main reasons that vegans avoid beeswax:
- Honey and beeswax are an animal byproduct (meaning we obtain both from the work of bees).
- Using these products is stealing from another species. In this viewpoint, it is the respect for another creature that warrants the purchasing decision.
I pose the question “what if bees didn’t return to a colony, we used no wax, and the colony subsequently collapsed? Would it then be OK to use the wax, rather than waste it?” This is a rhetorical question, and a rare circumstance. But with the increase of pesticides killing hives in large quantities, it may very well be a reality in our future.
The point of me asking this question is not to ruffle the feathers of strict vegans or create a debate. I’ve seen plenty of trolling where a flesh-eater maintains their position by asking questions like “where do you get protein?” and “what about plants—they feel pain, too!” The fact remains that there is a gray area, when it comes to bees.
The fact also remains that 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 might become extinct, should we use too much of their waxes. I have to weigh my decisions carefully with the ingredients I use.
Now understand my position; it will undoubtedly be refuted, belittled and argued with, in some circles. But as I advise I am a cruelty-free company that uses beeswax, it is my duty to explain how I can make that claim.
- Foremost, the company that certifies me as 100% cruelty-free is not concerned with beeswax as an ingredient. Nor are they concerned with other animal by-products. Their concern is how the animal is treated during their lifespan and that death does not occur to the animal by the harvesting of said by-product. I share their viewpoint.
- My company is cruelty-free. I annually verify 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 understand it is the food meant for bees themselves and taking wax and honey makes them work harder. What may not be commonly known is that part of the meaning of ethical harvesting means there is plenty of food and wax left for the bees. Whether you agree with this position or not, ethical harvesting means I am not stealing food from bees, nor are they being killed for my beeswax. This is a valuable piece of information for me as a business owner.
- Beeswax is a superior healing agent, which is a HUGE factor in all of my recipes. I choose ingredients for their healing ability, harvesting process, and the cost I must pass along to my consumers. High-priced products do little for the average consumer. I choose organic, fair-trade, ethically-harvested ingredients for my products.
- My company is eco-friendly. Honey bees are not the only pollinators and are possibly, not the best at this task. I understand bees are being used for profit when I purchase their wax. I understand many honey bees are not treated fairly – I’m not purchasing the wax from these companies. I know local bee farmers who don’t always 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 are the companies I support. 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 unfair and an obtuse way of looking at the world. There are ethical farmers out there of all types and we need to support them. 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.
- 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 carnauba wax instead of beeswax. If you want to start a movement, refrain from complaining and support those products with your dollars. Start a movement for carnauba-based salves and prove it’s a product worth keeping on store shelves.
I respect the views of everyone and what they believe, regardless of my lifestyle choices (which is mostly vegan). My job is to educate, not dominate. My line of products is at least 80% vegan, if not more. I am also the only tattoo/piercing aftercare and laser tattoo removal aftercare company that has a full line of vegan products. This includes the ointment tattoo artists use while tattooing—A&D is typically used and contains lanolin. The transfer paper they use is also not vegan unless they special order it (my husband is a vegan, organic tattoo artist). If you’re vegan and wish to avoid the ointment used by artists, I created a vegan alternative here. My husband uses it in his organic, vegan tattoo process.
I hope my position is more clear to everyone and that non-vegans understand the position of not using honey and beeswax. Should you have further questions, email me, or you can leave a comment below.
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.
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