By now, it’s likely that you’ve seen, or at least heard the latest “news” that’s making the rounds via social media: avocados, almond, and several fruits and vegetables are being called “not vegan.” The information circulated via a video of a segment from the BBC comedy quiz show, QI.
In the video, it’s asked which of avocados, almonds, melons, kiwis, or butternut squash can be eaten by “strict vegans.” When one contestant answers “any of them,” host Sandi Toksvig informs him that he’s wrong. Why? “The same reason as honey,” Toksvig said. “…Because they’re so difficult to cultivate naturally, all of these crops rely on bees, which are placed on the back of trucks and taken long distances across the country. It’s migratory bee-keeping and an unnatural use of animals and there are lots of foods that fall foul of this.”
While it is true that many crops rely on bees from bee-keepers for pollination, many have pushed back, arguing that in spite of this, avocados and almonds are still vegan.
7 reasons why avocados and almonds are vegan
1. It’s in the definition of ‘veganism’
According to The Vegan Society, the oldest vegan society in the world and creator of the word “vegan,” veganism“is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
This definition acknowledges upfront that it is not possible for any individual to completely avoid all forms of exploitation – rather, it’s about doing one’s very best to not harm animals. While some smaller farms may not rely on commercial beekeeping for pollination, it’s neither practical nor possible for every individual to have access to the naturally-pollinated produce found at some farmer’s markets. In a food system that heavily relies on large-scale produce farms that use bees, vegans, and others looking to reduce their cruelty to animals, are allowed to do their best with the fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, etc… available.
2. They’re plants
A similar controversy circulated around the Internet last year, with many publications hopping on the idea that figs are not vegan because of the pollination process. When a female fig wasp lays her eggs inside the fruit, she loses her antennae and wings and gets stuck. In a natural process, figs release an enzyme that breaks down the mother wasp’s body into protein. When female young wasps hatch, they continue the pollination process. While many mainstream news outlets questioned whether or not this made figs vegan, others argued that they are fruit and therefore, vegan.
Vegans avoid eating animal products like meat, cheese, milk, eggs, seafood, and honey. Since it’s difficult to determine whether or not a crop was grown using commercial beekeeping, plants – or bizarre, but beautiful natural cycles like figs – eating plants like avocados, almonds, butternut squash, and all of the other supposedly not-vegan plants is well within the ethical bounds of veganism.
3. If avocados and almonds aren’t vegan, neither are a lot of crops
What the show failed to address is that it’s not only crops like avocados and almonds that rely on commercial beekeeping, According to the American Beekeeping Federation and the New Agriculturist, beans, tomatoes, apples, broccoli, melons, carrots, onions, and hundreds of other fruits, vegetables, and grains are also pollinated by bees bred for commercial purposes. If we go according to what Toksvig, then it would drastically limit choices. Again, the definition of veganism means doing your best according to what’s practical and possible.
4. the avocado love is real
It’s not a secret that people, particularly Millennials, are in love with avocados. Last year, a statement from Australian millionaire Tim Gurner that said the Millennial generation can’t afford to buy homes because of their love for avocado toast and was famously torn apart by the Internet. In short, no, pricey avocado toast isn’t what’s killing off potential home buyers – but there’s no doubt that the avocado love is real. Avocado toast, guac, sliced on top of Buddha bowls, etc…
5. They’re good for you
A hallmark of vegan food is that it’s much healthier than it’s nonvegan counterpart: avocado is rich in fats and protein like butter, eggs, or meat. But unlike those animal-derived foods, the avocado is loaded with healthy plant-based fatty acids and lots of heart-healthy fiber. You can enjoy all the same creamy, fatty profiles of butter or cream (even making ice cream and desserts with avos) but without an ounce of guilt. Almonds, too, are a perfect protein-rich snack by the handful, a creamy heart-healthy fat spread, and as milk, they’re healthier than dairy from animals.
6. They have lower carbon footprints than non-vegan foods
Farming is complicated. Even the most vegan of crops require — if grown on a large scale — require lots of resources including fossil fuels, fertilizers, and water. Some crops, like almonds, can require a lot of water not coming from rain or the soil. But despite the intensity of farming, growing plant-based foods like almonds and avocados is significantly less damaging to the planet than producing animal products. The livestock sector produces more greenhouse gases than all of the transportation sector combined. Almonds and avocados, just like most vegan crops, don’t even make the top ten list of emissions producers.
7. They’re making the world a better place
The avocado trade is booming. Mexico grows more avocados than any other country in the world, and as America’s taste for the healthy fruit has increased, so too have imports. A report by the New York Times says the avocado has created nearly 20,000 new jobs and added more than $2 billion to the U.S. economy in recent years. Almonds too have become a cash crop for California, the world’s largest producer. Some growers are even finding profitable industries for almond hulls, including turning them into (vegan) beer. But beyond these obvious benefits is another reason these foods are definitely vegan: they don’t involve the risks of raising and slaughtering animals for food. Every year more than 50 billion land animals are raised in abject conditions for their meat, milk, or eggs. Something no avocado or almond farm ever comes close to.