We pick out some popular debates in the vegan world and tackle them head-on. This debate looks at whether vegans should eat figs


Should Vegans Eat Figs?

Debate: Should Vegans be Eating Figs? 1

According to the Vegan Society: “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.” According to its literature: “One thing we all have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey – as well as products like leather and any tested on animals.”

For many vegans, the important part is ‘as far as practicable’. There is a world of difference between factory farming, the daily slaughter of animals, and the testing that goes on in labs on one side, and the incidental consumption of insects on the other.

The pollination of figs is an entirely natural – and mutually beneficial – process that takes place in some, but not all, varieties of figs. Plus in contrast to what some people think, the crunchy bits in figs are seeds, and not the remains of wasps.

Nutrition student Jamie Kennedy says: “Some commercial fig varieties are grown without wasp pollination – so first of all a blanket ban on all figs is completely unnecessary.

“I eat them because they are very healthy – figs are a good source of fibre and a number of minerals. I think some people should bear arable farming methods in mind – every time you eat bread, mice will have been accidentally harvested by the machines, for example. If you’re going to eliminate figs from your diet, you are going to have a hard time justifying eating wheat or other harvested crops where the collateral damage is equal or even worse. Because this is a natural process, I am satisfied I am not contributing to the exploitation or suffering of animals by eating this fruit.”


Debate: Should Vegans be Eating Figs? 2

Vegans, as far as practicable, should avoid eating any animals or animal products. The way some varieties of fig are pollinated means every edible fruit of some fig varieties contain at least one dead wasp – so by eating a fig, you are eating a dead insect. So far, so not vegan.

According to online natural history textbook Waynes Word, the wasp will enter the fig, passing into a part of the plant – known as the calimyrna –which she can’t lay her eggs in. Out of frustration, she wanders around, pollinating the flowers as she goes.

Eventually she dies from sheer exhaustion, and is broken down by a protein-digesting enzyme inside the fig.

Jess Mann, who has been vegan for 22 years, says: “While there are always going to be trace amounts of insects in food – and even animals like mice being accidentally killed during the harvesting process – I see that as different to eating figs.

“You are not guaranteed to be eating these insects when you’re eating other veggies or fruits, but you are with figs, so it seems like an easy and practicable step to take to avoid them. I personally have a revulsion to eating meat because I find it disgusting. Just look at the ‘controlled rotting process’ hung beef goes through – it’s gross. I feel the same about eating a decomposed wasp’s body. It’s just horrible to think about a living creature decomposing – and then eating it.

“Even many omnivores find the idea of eating insects distasteful – though it is commonplace in some cultures; it’s not something that is globally popular. For many vegans, it’s this element that makes them feel a bit squeamish about them.”


We have presented you with two sides of the argument, but what do you think?

Have your say below…


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  1. Kiya on October 3, 2018 at 10:46 am

    Figs are discusting anyway – no surprise at all that they contain meat products


    • Eric on March 22, 2019 at 9:24 pm

      Referring to the trace components of an insect found inside a piece of fruit as a “meat product” is ridiculous. That kind of statement makes the vegan philosophy come across as laughably ignorant and is not at all helpful.

    • Warped on August 9, 2019 at 12:25 pm

      Food for thought is there a difference between a fig pollinated by a wasp then eaten by a plant then a plant using the nutrients from the ground which happened once used to be an animal?

      • Ryan aka MileHighVegan on October 10, 2019 at 1:11 am

        Intention is key. Breeding an animal to be killed for food is completely different from a wasp pollinating a fruit and dying.

    • Cheezy Boi on March 2, 2020 at 2:14 pm

      Despite being a vegan, I kind of agree with Eric. He does have a point.

  2. Pete Radcliffe on October 9, 2018 at 9:32 am

    Are animals deliberately harmed or killed in order to produce figs? As far as I can make out, the answer is no. However, I would be interested to know which varieties of figs are wasp free.

    • H on November 13, 2018 at 4:30 pm

      I think technically they’re vegan, as it’s a natural process and the wasps aren’t being exploited in a man-made process. That said, I’d also really like to know which varieties are wasp-free as frankly, the thought of it is just a bit gross!

  3. Louise on May 19, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    Interesting reading two sides of the debate.

  4. Matthew Thomson from Canberra on May 24, 2019 at 9:09 am

    What is even a more complex discussion is if oyster mushrooms are vegan. The mycellia hunt and eat nematodes etc meaning that many animals died in order for the mushroom to be produced. This is a huge ethical dilemma that I haven’t yet decided on and would love to hear people’s thoughts on.

  5. NotavegansomaybeIshouldn'tputmytwocentsin on June 14, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    If you are vegan due to environmental reasons, you should have no issue eating a wasp-pollinated fig. Plus, insect protein is a sustainable and healthy alternative to meat. And it’s probably better for the environment than eating commercially grown grains, fruits, and nuts.

  6. Charli on July 27, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    Since this is a naturally occurring process, not something humans modified fig plants to do, they should be considered vegan. Veganism is about not consuming/using products that humans decided to make or take from animals. NATURE decided to do this with fig wasps and figs, not humans. Whether we eat them or not, those fig trees and fig wasps will continue to do as nature intended them.

    • Rod on September 5, 2020 at 5:07 pm

      Nature intended us to be omnivores.
      Don’t go mad, but eat a bit of meat, fish and insects.
      That’s what god would have wanted…

  7. Ricky on September 3, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    This one’s tough, but here’s where I end up: plants absorb nutrients from dead animals in the ground. This is a natural and necessary process. So if a wasp is digested by the fig and then you digest the fig, you’re not “eating meat” any more than you would be if you ate an apple from a tree which absorbed the nutrients of a cicada that expired underground. Additionally since the fig wasp is not being exploited, deliberately harmed, or even inconvenienced, I think of it as incidental and natural (and again, not all fig trees and not even all figs on those fig trees).

  8. Raju on September 6, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    I have stopped eating figs sinc I found out about 3 years ago

  9. Kat paluzzi on November 22, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    Being grossed out by eating a bug is one thing, but eating a “fruit” doing its evolutionary job is another… Let’s break it down this way… the FIG TREE is not VEGAN (like a venus fly trap and other carnivorous plants who have evolved to suss out nutrients in nutrient barren areas by that carnivorous act…lets say a niche in the eco system). The “fruit” is to be consumed to spread seeds…Kind of brilliant, maybe gross but certainly not a case of exploited wasps, just the natural evolution of two species.

  10. Jason Dashney on December 26, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    Most figs are not vegan. Tons and tons of plants aren’t vegan. Tons of farms need to bring in colonies of bees to help with pollination. Same with wasps. The farmers can bring in certain wasps purposely meant for the purpose of growing more figs, and commercially appealing figs. That’s animal use and it certainly violates vegan principles. If you won’t eat honey, how can you eat any plant that uses these exact same insects to create the food?

    FYI, I’m not vegan. I’m vegetarian so I say gimme the figs, and all the other plants bees and wasps are brought in to pollinate. I say this because no animals is FORCED to do anything it naturally doesn’t want to do anyway. It’s not like putting a yoke on an ox and smacking its ass.

    • Nigel on January 2, 2020 at 4:33 pm

      Yeah and cows are not raped to give their milk to you are they? FFS A vegetarian trying to lecture vegans about using FORCE!

      • Antonella on May 6, 2020 at 9:55 pm

        Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you have milk or any dairy products. I’m a vegetarian and I don’t consume those. Maybe you just burn beeswax candles. Or have pet hens and you eat their eggs instead of throwing them away. Just a thought.

      • Up the pollinators on September 16, 2021 at 4:08 pm

        You can’t train a bee to pollinate. It instinctively does it. Bees produce more honey than it needs. If left in the hive wasps will rob and kill them for it.
        Just a thought.

  11. Sally on January 21, 2020 at 11:19 pm

    If you want to stop eating figs then you should probably stop looking at flowers. Flowering plants only evolved because they saw the opportunity to get insects to do their pollination for them. Every flowering plant exploits the desire of insects for nectar or something. In the case of figs this exploitation is a bit more extreme with each variety of wild fig having a specific wasp which is attracted in to use the fig to lay her eggs and the fig provides the nutrients for her young to develop and they fly out of the fig.
    Vegans don’t eat honey so they shouldn’t enjoy the flowers which produce the nectar so that the bees desire to make honey will get them to pollinate them.

  12. Sally on January 21, 2020 at 11:25 pm

    PS I want to know if vegans will eat termites? At certain times the queen flies high and the colony produces lots of drones who all fly high to try and be the one to catch the queen. Once the flying is over they all fall to the ground and just wander around until they die as their job is done.

    Is it wrong to eat them? or is it only alright to eat the plants who benefit from the goodness in their bodies?

  13. Laura on July 31, 2020 at 8:01 pm

    This is the first I have heard of this and find it absolutely ridiculous. Signed, Long-time vegan

  14. Catherine on August 25, 2020 at 11:21 am

    This is a mutually beneficial relationship between fig and wasp. I have several large fig trees in my garden. They produce beautiful fruit. The wasps happily gorge on the swollen fruit when it drops to the ground. I have no doubt that some wasps are ‘consumed’ by the tree to produce this organic and natural bounty. Nature is full of symbiotic relationships. I’m sure the fig tree really doesn’t care if I eat the fruit or not. It’s looking to reproduce. It builds no cities. It creates no pollution. In the process of doing this it feeds a huge raft of insects and animals. The boar, deer and my dogs eat the fallen fruit. Me eating or not eating the fruit makes no difference. For me, and this is personal, being vegan is about not causing harm. By eating the figs I’m not causing harm. The tree is doing what is natural and exists as part of a harmonious ecosystem. For me, eating the figs from my tree causes zero environmental impact. No chemicals. No watering. No fertiliser. No air miles. No land miles. No harm. The wasps will do what they do naturally and the tree will repay that sacrifice with beautiful sweet fruit for the other wasps to eat. It’s a wonderful example of nature working well. I have 2 types of figs. Both are equally delicious. I have so many I give them to anyone who visits.

    • Risa Rose on September 28, 2020 at 4:22 pm

      Although I personally will not eat figs since I found out about this process several years ago, I must say that Catherine, your comment is thoughtful, well stated and beautifully expressed.

  15. Vegetarian not vegan on September 6, 2020 at 6:47 am

    The “natural process” argument does not hold water. To feed humans, fig trees are cultured by humans (there are more than there otherwise would be in the wild). Other than the “wasp free” variety, these are planted deliberately knowing that at least one wasp dies for each fig. So wild wasps (assuming farmed wasps are not inserted or “encouraged” to pollinate figs) WILL “accidentally” die in each fig you eat. The further down the rabbit hole you go, the greyer the areas get eh?

  16. Nat on October 13, 2020 at 10:27 pm

    I grew up in the Mediterranean region and ate tons of ripefigs from trees growing in my family’s garden.
    The statement that “figs are not vegan” is so ignorant,… I can’t even argue as I am blown away by the stupidity of whoever came up with this.

  17. […] eggs, cheese, butter, milk, cream, ice cream and other dairy products; and honey. Don’t forget figs, an easy mistake to […]

  18. […] cheese, butter, milk, cream, ice cream and different dairy merchandise; and honey. Don’t neglect figs, a simple mistake to […]

  19. […] eggs, cheese, butter, milk, cream, ice cream and other dairy products; and honey. Don’t forget figs, an easy mistake to […]

  20. Michael on December 25, 2020 at 5:43 am

    So this entire article and the discussion of it is missing a key fact….the wasps aim to lay their eggs in the male figs, while the figs we eat are female. Further,many of the figs in the states are from California, where a large majority of the fig trees are actually self-pollinated. So more likely than not, nothing non-vegan about figs at all

  21. Argos on February 20, 2021 at 4:38 pm

    The key thing here, to me, is whether you view veganism as an activity (no eating anything animal-related) or as an intentional ethic (no complicity in the exploitation of animals). I see it as the second, and therefore, figs are perfectly permissible. No animals were exploited. At some level, all plants rely directly on the presence—and therefore peril—of insects and other pollinators. If you only view veganism as an activity, you would need to exclude a range of nutrition so wide, you’d be left with almost nothing.

  22. Rose on April 22, 2021 at 4:32 pm

    Check out this article about how fig growers fool wasps into pollinating the figs. This IS cruelty to a LIVING CREATURE….


  23. Hugh Gentry on April 28, 2021 at 6:25 pm

    The variety of wasp involved in fig polination is remarkably tiny – it has to be in order to enter the fig. I would imagine there is more trace calcium in the water consumed by the fig tree to grow the fig. The calcium comes from groundwater filtering through the dead skeletons of millions of years worth of accumlated sea creatures. In fact if you’re really serious about being vegan you ought only to be drinking distilled water, since tap water in most parts of the world is like a liquid cemetary due to calcium deposits.

  24. […] the actual physical components of the wasp essentially become the fruit, Vegan Life affirms that, except in the case of commercial figs grown without wasp pollination, there’s […]

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