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Debate: Should Vegans be Eating Figs?

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?

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.”


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.

  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. […] The first ingredient that pops out is figs which are certainly vegan, despite claims that they have dead wasps inside. Whether or not this is true for all commercial figs, it's a ridiculous notion to claim that the natural pollination process of a plant would result in it not being vegan. Also, many figs are grown without wasp pollination. […]

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

    Interesting reading two sides of the debate.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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).

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

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

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