If you think you know what constitutes vegan food, you might be in for a surprise after BBC TV show ‘QI’ claimed that avocado is not in fact vegan.
Alongside almonds, kiwi, butternut squash, broccoli, cherries, cucumber, lettuce and melon, presenter Sandi Toksvig, revealed that (strictly speaking) these items shouldn’t be considered vegan because they require bees to be used in an “unnatural way”.
“It’s the same reason as honey,” Toksvig said. “Because they are so difficult to cultivate naturally, all of these crops rely on bees which are placed on the back of trucks and taken very long distances across the country.”
This process, known as migratory beekeeping, does of course involves humans interfering in animal behaviour. But The Vegan Society disagrees with the classification of avocados as non-vegan.
“Vegans avoid using animals as far as possible and practicable,” Dominika Piasecka, a spokesperson for the society, told Plant Based News. “We are aware that many forms of farming involve indirect harm to animals but it is unfortunately not possible or practicable to avoid the destruction of other animals in most farming at this time.
“We do not consider that just because it is not possible to avoid 100 per cent of the cruelty, suffering and exploitation to animals that we should not bother at all.” But what do most vegans think?
John Parks tells HuffPost UK that he eats avocados as part of his vegan diet, and always has done. The 42-year-old says that living in the UK and in the modern economy, it is almost impossible to live completely cruelty-free.
“It’s so hard to never have any of your food impact on animals or insects in some way, that’s just how our food is grown,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean we should all give up. I think sentiments like this are just used as a rod to beat vegans with and make meat-eaters feel better about themselves.”
Sarah Bell-Smith, 21, says she had tried in the past to eat supplements for products like honey that involve bees (she ate agave instead) but finds it tricky knowing the origins of every product, and does enjoy eating avocado.
Nicky*, a video producer from London, says: “Well I guess the only way to get round all this is just to start growing my own allotment - become self-sufficient - to know where everything is from. But living where I do, that’s not an option.
“It’s frustrating because eating an avocado obviously doesn’t have the same impact on animals and the environment as eating meat and dairy.”
*Some people’s names in this article have been changed upon their request.