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February 01, 2022

Can vegans eat avocados?

Avocados are plants that grow on trees and can be eaten by humans and non-humans. By this logic, avocados are suitable for vegans.

However, vegans do not consume honey because the exploitation of bees is unnecessary. These bees are often transported through different countries. Usually under less than ideal conditions. To pollinate large avocado crops so we can enjoy our avocados on toast in peace. 

In this article, we explore the ethical dilemma of supporting the avocado industry. The same principles apply to other resource-intensive crops, such as almonds.

We discuss in particular the size of the avocado market and the practices of migratory beekeeping. Also, the limits of veganism. We conclude with some practical tips for buying avocados with as little impact as possible.

How big is the avocado industry?

The global avocado market is estimated at over $12.8 billion and is expected to grow to $17.9 billion by 2025. Visibility is increasing awareness of the health benefits of avocados. Also, rapid cultural adaptation by Millennials.

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The challenge of growing avocados

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Avocados, also known as the ancient Mexican fruit, originated in South America. It is a finicky tree that prefers warmer, more stable climates, although many varieties are grown successfully around the world.

Bred from seed, avocado trees take between 10 and 20 years to mature and bear fruit (if you're lucky). The young tree is thirsty - it needs 270 gallons of water to produce one pound of avocado fruit. Avocados need perfect drainage and a high location, as they don't like wet roots.

As far as pollination is concerned, avocado trees are different from other fruit trees. There are two types, type A and type B.

Both types consist of flowers that open once as a male flower, close, and then open again as a female flower. Type A and B trees usually bloom in the morning and afternoon. This usually means that growers have two avocado plants to achieve cross-pollination.

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In cooler climates like New Zealand, avocado flowers open in the evening hours, so they rely on nocturnal pollinators like moths and bats.

Adding to the problem, honeybees are not big fans of avocado flowers and generally fly over them to find a desirable nectar source.

Some growers spray their flowers with a mixture of honey and water to encourage bees to pollinate avocado flowers.

In contrast, tomato and chili plants can easily self-pollinate, either by the wind or by the vibrations of animal pollinators such as bees, flies, butterflies and hummingbirds, to name a few. Depending on the climate, avocados are harvested every other year in the spring and summer.

Because growing avocados is complex, commercial growers use a variety of farming methods. Some of these include the use of honeybees to help pollinate the flowers.

What is migratory beekeeping?

In general, there are two types of beekeeping: hobby beekeeping and commercial beekeeping. In both cases, the primary purpose is to produce honey and beeswax, and to pollinate flowers.

Hobby beekeepers operate one or more hives as a hobby and sometimes make a profit from their honey. Commercial beekeepers keep dozens to thousands of hives at a time to make a profit from honey production. However, another type of beekeeping has a significant impact on the food we consume, namely migratory beekeeping.

Migratory beekeeping involves managing large numbers of hives and using the bees to pollinate large numbers of crops in a given area.

Farmers pay migratory beekeepers up to $200 per hive for pollinating their crops. This exchange is called a "pollination rent."

Migratory beekeepers view their bees as farm animals that are loaded onto trucks to pollinate crops across the country. For example, each February, more than 31 billion European honey bees are transported to central California to pollinate hundreds of billions of almond blossoms.

These vast almond orchards are responsible for up to 80% of the world's almond production
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Bees are on the rise again. They provide their pollination services to many crops in the United States.

After flowering, these same bees are then used for honey production so they are productive throughout the year.

This story is not unique to America.

Here in Australia, commercial beekeepers are diversifying their income beyond honey by providing pollination services. The company, Goldfields Honey, deploys 5,000 hives each year in almond orchards along the Murray River.

The company is a major player in the honey industry.

The combination of deadly diseases such as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), exposure to pesticides, stressful trucking conditions, restrictive diets, winter and lack of nectar compared to the number of hives kept for honey production means beekeepers are losing between 30% and 70% of their hives each year. This is an alarming mortality rate for these hardworking bees.

Like any farmer, migratory beekeepers calculate losses and take precautions to create more colonies by splitting healthy hives in half. This is an effective way to increase the population and sometimes even increase the number of hives from year to year.

Is migratory beekeeping vegan?

Routing beekeeping is an agricultural approach in which bees are bred and exploited for their pollination services and honey production for human consumption. Many bees die in the process, and when considered in isolation, migratory beekeeping is unethical and not vegan.

However, if we take a step back and look at agriculture in its entirety, there is much more to consider.

Let's start with monoculture. An agricultural practice in which a single crop or animal species is grown to increase agricultural efficiency. Think of large-scale chicken farms or blueberry orchards without any diversity.

Let's start with monoculture.

Economically, monoculture is profitable and helps produce more food for the masses, but it is as far removed from nature as we can get.

Animals and plants are biologically designed to live together, not in isolation. This is why monoculture farming leads to more pests, diseases, and of course, migratory beekeeping.

We must not forget that the honey bee is one of over 20,000 bee species originally introduced from Europe for their productivity and honey. Not to mention all the other animal pollinators.

On the other hand, polyculture is an agricultural approach that involves growing more than one species of plants and animals to mimic natural ecosystems.

Polyculture farms may not always be lush wild gardens that attract all the native pollinators, but it is still a more environmentally and vegan-friendly system than monoculture. That's because polyculture farms are less dependent on migratory bees, since the diversity of crops attracts natural pollinators.

If you can, you should support farms that do not rely on pollinator hives due to monoculture, as they are usually vegan. That brings me to my next point

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Is everything we consume technically vegan?

To understand whether it's okay for vegans to eat avocados and other plants pollinated by migratory bees, it's important to consider the intent behind veganism.

Veganism is about doing whatever you can practically do to avoid harming and exploiting animals. The definition of veganism also extends to how we treat humans.

Non-vegans regularly accuse vegans of being hypocritical because they don't eat honey. They say something like, "If you don't eat honey, are you willing to give up almonds?" For the reasons outlined above, the question is valid.

Vegans will then cite the definition of veganism and point out that veganism is not about being perfect, but that it is better for the animals if we do everything we practically can. Besides, we have to eat, right? That's another good argument.

To take it a step further, virtually everything we consume has an indirect effect on another animal: when you walk outside, you unknowingly step on insects. Or maybe you've been in the horrible situation of accidentally hitting an animal with your car. It's a horrible feeling, I know.

In some countries, the quality of drinking water is tested on certain types of fish to determine if it contains toxins or harmful chemicals.

What about organic cotton?

Another popular monoculture that is likely pollinated by migratory bees. We unknowingly kill flies when they get caught in our homes. I've probably eaten my share of little caterpillars hiding in my broccoli.

Where do we draw the line? Do we stop eating, sleeping, driving and wearing clothes? Where is the line of veganism? Only you can probably answer that.

But don't make the mistake of thinking that eating lamb this afternoon is the best you can practically do; therefore, you are vegan - unless that is the only food you have access to (highly unlikely if you are reading this).

Buying animal products or paying for animal care is still directly linked to the killing or exploitation of animals. We can do better about that. But not drinking water because we're not sure where it comes from? That's where things get ridiculous. This is where logic applies.

But if you've made it this far and are wondering whether or not you can eat avocados, read on. Was sind die ethischsten Optionen für den Kauf von Avocados?

Vegans can eat avocados, but as with any product, there is a sliding scale of impact. Below are five options for buying avocados, ranked from most vegan-friendly to least vegan-friendly. The same hierarchy can be applied to all plant-based foods.

What do you think? Do vegans know how to eat avocados?

The exercise of questioning the ethics of the foods we consume is valuable if you want to reduce your impact

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Yes, it can mean more work and less convenience. But if we educate ourselves, we can make better choices. Not perfect, but better.

Now I'd like to hear from you.



Autor: Smart Bites

Editor: Martina Zlatkova


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