Almond Milk Is Not Vegan

Almond Milk Gains Popularity

We're munching on almonds and beating them into milk and cheese. Almond growers couldn't be happier. Some people also feel happy that they're not using cow's milk. They consider almond milk to be vegan.

However, the definition of vegan is not eating any animal product or using any by-product. This includes wearing silk made by silkworms and honey made by honey bees.

 
To me, saying I’m vegan is synonymous with saying,
I have decided to live a lifestyle that does not support animal exploitation.
— Jack Norris, Co-Founder of Vegan Outreach
 

Spoiler Alert: Almonds Are Not Vegan

Without honey bees, we wouldn't have almond milk. The only way our vast almond groves exist and the millions of pollinated flowers become crunchy tidbits is because we enlist the massive workforce of our honey bees.

LOTS of honey bees. 

California Almond Groves

I'll bet you've seen the ads for California almonds. All that advertising by California almond growers is paying off.

The majority of almonds are grown in California. They provide more than 80% of the world's almond harvest.

 
 

California almond groves cover more than 900,000 acres. Plans are being made to expand even further

Almond trees are not self-pollinating; honey bees provide the missing link.

We don't have enough honey bees in California to pollinate all of these almond orchards. Every year, nearly 85% of ALL beehives in the United States are trucked to California to pollinate the state's almond crop.

More than one million beehives (not bees, beehives) travel to California every year from as far away as Maine. Honey bees provide pollination for the almond crop in February and early March.

Honey Bees On The Road

Shipping honey bees around the country is not particularly beneficial to them. Traveling the entire length of the United States on trucks with hives wrapped in saran wrap is stressful. It can weaken their immune systems.

When honey bees gather together from around the country, they bring their local viruses and pathogens. Not all the little bees make it back to their own hives, and thus, germs and diseases are shared.

 
The migration continually boomerangs honeybees between times of plenty and borderline starvation. Once a particular bloom is over, the bees have nothing to eat, because there is only that one pollen-depleted crop as far as the eye can see.

When on the road, bees cannot forage or defecate. And the sugar syrup and pollen patties beekeepers offer as compensation are not nearly as nutritious as pollen and nectar from wild plants.

Scientists have a good understanding of the macronutrients in pollen such as protein, fat and carbohydrate, but know very little about its many micronutrients such as vitamins, metals and minerals — so replicating pollen is difficult.
— Scientific American
 

Bees Face Danger When Traveling

The road trip itself is not necessarily a safe one. A semi-truck loaded with beehives crashed on I-5 in Washington State. Clean-up crews killed nearly all the bees.

Out of 448 beehives only 128 were rescued. This doesn't help our declining bee population. Perhaps if they had not been on the road in the first place.

Large mono-crops provide an ideal habitat for pests like fungi and insects and thus, the almond growers have a strong incentive to use pesticides and chemicals. There was an uproar from beekeepers when a massive die-out of the honey bees took place in 2014 – beekeepers thought almond growers had used too many pesticides.

It's a precarious situation for our honeybees.

I'm not suggesting that we do away with almonds. Who doesn't enjoy a toasted, salted almond? Who can resist the lure of a delicate macaron?

I'm also not suggesting we do away with honey bees or honey. 

We need to raise awareness that literally millions upon millions of honey bees give us all these almonds. We must find ways to support them.

Some have asked why we don't just add more beehives into California. 

 
California is already home to 500,000 of the nation’s 2.7 million hives. The almond bloom is great for a few weeks, but not in terms of year-round foraging,

California is already at or near its carrying capacity for honey bees. The areas with the best-quality forage are already well stocked with bees.

So, satisfying the world’s ever-growing appetite for almonds will continue to require an annual armada of beehive-laden trucks.
— Eric Mussen, UC Davis
 

Helping Our Honey Bees

There are ways that we can help the situation and our honey bees. We simply have to choose to do so.

At the personal level: buy local. Support small businesses of beekeepers and buy local, organic honey. Not only are you getting fresh, unadulterated honey, you also benefit from the local pollens.

Amongst the thousands of crop acres, we could restore portions of acreage with natural, bee-friendly habitat as suggested in the NPR broadcast linked in this article. This would favor native pollinators as well as honey bees.

The idea is to plant varied types of wildflowers in different areas for bees to have more places to forage and nest. With a robust population of native bees and pollinators, the amount of honey bees required could potentially be cut in half. 

Although, bear in mind, beekeepers currently make more profit from pollination services than they do from honey sales. This idea could be met with resistance from the beekeepers themselves.

irrigation ditch, california. ap photo/jae c. hong

Almonds And Water

Given California's recurring drought situation, it is worth noting that almond crops are one of the highest water consumers. It takes about a gallon of water for one almond. 

 
There is little dispute that almonds are among the thirstiest crops in California. Almond trees require about 4 acre-feet of water a year for every acre planted.
Tomatoes and grapes take about half as much water...
— David Goldhamer, UC Cooperative Extension

Furthermore, almond orchards are continual crops and must be watered throughout the year. Almond trees don't have the option to lie fallow during the off-season.

Everything We Do Touches Everything

There is nothing we do that doesn't touch everything. We are all connected together. The idea of separation is a simple delusion. It's not our greater truth.

With each breath we take, we touch a vibration that connects us all, all the time, wherever we are, whether we are conscious of it or not. 

This article Why California Almonds Need North Dakota Flowers (And A Few Billion Bees) describes the interconnection of our bees, orchards and wild flowers.

Support Our Honeybees With The Radiance Technique®

For students of The Radiance Technique® (TRT®), we can support ourselves with use of TRT®, especially if we have feelings of helplessness when we struggle with these issues. We can use our TRT® hands-on – for example, Front Positions #1 and #3, as well as Back Positions #3 and #4.

Students of The Second Degree of TRT® are able to direct radiant energy to honey bees and their beekeepers, the almond groves and the growers. They can also direct radiant energy to policy-makers that decisions will be made with responsibility and caring.

We can have both almonds and honey, but let's do so with awareness and responsible caretaking.

We may, however, want to rethink the idea that almond milk is vegan.