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Vegan Myths: Avocados aren’t vegan

If you haven’t heard the ‘news’ that’s been circulating the vegan network and social media, it’s likely that you will stumble across it soon.


The recent hiatus has been focused mostly on the millennial-favourite, the avocado, but has also condemned almonds, kiwis, and several other fruits and vegetables, claiming that they are not vegan. The query was brought to public attention after sharing of a video from the BBC comedy quiz show, QI.

In the video, host Sandi Toksvig asks what can be eaten from a choice of avocados, almonds, melons, kiwis, or butternut squash, by “strict vegans.” When one contestant answers “any of them,” host Sandi Toksvig informs him that he is 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.”

However, Toksvig failed to present all of the information surrounding this ‘debate’. Multiple vegan experts and vegan activists have put forth arguments that explain why avocados and almonds are still vegan.


It’s in the definition of veganism

If we look at the description put forth by The Vegan Society, the creators of the words ‘vegan’ and ‘veganism’, we understand that 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.”

In an ideal world, we would live entirely independent of animals, and would not take advantage of their natural processes. But, the definition acknowledges that it is not possible for every individual to completely avoid all forms of exploitation.

Yes, it’s true that bees are needed to pollinate avocados, as well as many of our food crops, be that through ‘natural’ local-bee pollination, or migratory bee pollination. Whilst not all farms rely on ‘unnatural’ pollination, some farms have no choice. In large areas like California, US, there are not enough local bees for the pollination of the massive fruit, vegetable and nut-farms needed to feed the population.

There are of course, smaller farms that don’t need to rely on commercial beekeeping for pollination, and we should attempt to buy produce from these when we can. But it isn’t practical or possible for every individual to access the naturally-pollinated produce found at some farmer’s markets.

Tracy Reiman, a representative for PETA, commented: “Average shoppers can’t avoid produce that involves migratory beekeeping, any more than they can avoid driving on asphalt.”

Sadly, Reiman is right. We live in a food system that massively relies on large-scale produce-farms that utilise bees, and unfortunately, modern society and overpopulation has made it virtually impossible to break away from food produced this way. Nevertheless, vegans will continue to do their best with the fruits, vegetables, and nuts available.

Spokesperson for The Vegan Society, Dominika Piasecka, said: “Vegans avoid using animals as far as possible and practicable. 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.

“However, we do not consider that just because it is not possible to avoid one hundred percent of the cruelty, suffering and exploitation to animals that we should not bother at all. Vegans make a huge contribution to the reduction in suffering and death caused to animals and we would welcome any changes made to farming practices that support this.”


If avocado’s aren’t vegan, neither are most crops

QI failed to bring to light that it isn’t just crops like avocados and almonds that rely on commercial beekeeping. According to the New Agriculturalist and the American Beekeeping Federation, 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 took Toksvig’s comment at face value, then it would limit our diet to a dangerous few food sources. Once more, the definition of veganism means doing your absolute best according to what’s practical and possible – we need to draw a line somewhere. Making choices about our diet requires us to balance the effort we expend against the impact on our daily life. Similar balances occur when we make choices on how much we should donate to charity, or what we do to reduce our energy use or CO2 emissions.

Last year, a similar debate flooded the internet, stating that figs are not vegan because of something that happens during the pollination process. When a female fig wasp lays her eggs inside the fruit, she loses her antennae and wings, getting herself trapped. In a natural process, figs release an enzyme that breaks down the mother-wasp’s body into protein. When young female wasps hatch, they continue the pollination process. Multiple mainstream news outlets questioned whether or not this made figs vegan, since numerous wasps were harmed as an indirect result of farming figs.


Since it’s difficult to determine whether or not a crop was grown using commercial beekeeping, plants – or strange, but natural cycles like figs – eating plants such as avocados, almonds, butternut squash, and all of the other supposedly not-vegan plants is well within the ethical bounds of veganism.

Every year, more than 50 billion land animals are bred for their meat, milk, or eggs. Whilst we cannot guarantee that no animals were exploited to pollinate the crops we eat, no avocado or almond farm comes close to the destruction that animal-related agriculture comes to.




  1. Lars-wictor Abrahamsson on November 2, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    So it’s fine to use products that have exploited animals for the sake of convenience. As long as it is these trendy foods that we like. Ok. Totally not hypocritical.

    • S Ali on November 12, 2018 at 1:58 am

      That is not the argument being made… you are being intellectually dishonest.

      The argument is that you could technically make the case that absolutely nothing is vegan if you take it far enough like they are doing. Farming literally any edible crop could result in the displacement of an animal for example… Picking a fallen fruit could harm the bird that was going to eat it instead… What are vegans supposed to do? Just die of starvation by not eating anything?

      The point is that not everything is the same. How on earth is it hypocritical to say that using bees for pollination is not as bad as slaughtering cows?

      • ANR on March 31, 2019 at 6:45 am

        S Ali
        Actually that was the argument made and you are the one taking things to extreme.
        To quote the article “as far as possible and practicable”
        Hard to believe anyone that can afford to post here would have issue finding an alternative to avocado in order to stop exploitation of bees

    • Greta on April 11, 2019 at 1:37 pm

      To live a successful Vegan life is always going to be contradictory. On one hand it’s all about the animals and keeping them safe, not for food, and non of their byproducts for food. But on the flip side they are willing to have most other things, synthetic’s, vehicles, fuels, homes filled with non natural products that clog up the earth and sea ….and what about dogs. What do we feed them? I understand Vegetarian, but still using byproducts as I see this as not only sustainable but environmentally correct – leathers, silks, wool, fur….natural products that break down after use.

    • Anon on September 11, 2019 at 12:15 am

      “As far as possible and practicable…” which means you’re not adhering to the strict definition of veganism. Here’s the thing: you don’t need to eat Avocados but you do because they taste good. Sound familiar? Obviously meat is way more unethical as livestock animals are basically humans and insects aren’t as sentient, but if you value all life the same maybe you should reconsider eating avocados. I’m a vegan but my veganism is not so strict that it must exclude products that harm insects like bees. All crops involve some form of harm to animals. If you want to avoid harming sentient beings as much as possible you’d grow your own food. I’m just saying that there are a lot of self-righteous strict vegans out there who are quick to call out others for not being vegan enough that don’t even adhere to their own interpretation of veganism. This is the kind of thing that pushes otherwise good people who care about animals away from veganism because of all the arbitrary rules.

  2. Terry on November 6, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    I’m not a vegan or vegetarian and i don’t have any interest in becoming a vegan, but anything that we can do to reduce the production of meat and dairy should be applauded.
    The amount of land and chemicals used for this is just unsustainable.

    • Laura on December 23, 2018 at 11:03 pm

      You have made what I consider a bizarre comment… you believe that anything we can do to reduce production of meat and dairy should be applauded, yet you have no interest in joining the cause (Ie reducing your OWN impact). Doesnt that come across rather selfish, no?

      • Andy on January 8, 2019 at 11:39 am

        Reduction of meat and dairy are not synonymous with being Vegan or Vegetarian.

        Look at lab grown meat for example, or turning to other sources of protein like fish or insects. All these things will reduce the heavy production of beef and dairy for example.

        The ideal situation for the planet actually sits between meat eating and veganism. We can sustainable grow and eat meat with free grazing lands which is the lowest impact of all issues.

        • reader on January 29, 2019 at 11:14 pm

          That depends on what “meat” means. Some folks don’t eat the flesh of even animals like fish, because they don’t eat meat. Some other people eat turkey but not beef, because they don’t eat meat.

  3. Rhys on February 3, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    The title of this article is incorrect!

    Whether you find it impractical, or inconvenient to your diet, the statement that avocados aren’t vegan is true and NOT a myth. Your article even confirms this.

    If you decide to adopt this lifestyle choice then good for you, but ignoring facts to fit your agenda is a little childish. Especially when so much judgement is thrown towards meat eaters from the vegan community.

    • Clarence Baratheon on February 13, 2019 at 4:03 pm

      All that meat is making you thick mate.

    • Mutley on July 14, 2019 at 7:12 am

      This statement is little different to the argument that vegans kill more small animals because mice and voles are killed in producing crops. The simple fact is that veganism is a decision to reduce animal exploitation and murder to a minimum as we have the ability to consume plenty of calories and a rich and balanced diet without deliberately injuring or murdering animals and reducing the negative impact we make on the world. No one person can be either the judge nor the standard maker of veganism.
      In this case the hypocrite is the person who eats meat and dairy telling someone else that they are not vegan enough. As Jesus said take the plank out of your own eye before trying to remove the splinter out of someone else’s eye

  4. WantTofuAround? on March 20, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    QI is a lighthearted comedy show I wouldn’t call it a debate, and they did say it was the strictest of vegans.

    I think it comes down to this. If a food requires intervention with an animal and is unsustainable to grow and distribute without them. Then it can’t be truly vegan. Probably needs some kind of labelling.

    However it’s a slippery slope. Imagine how farmers out in the world might use an animal to help plough a field and you have no way of knowing.

  5. GeeGnome on May 11, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    That’s a nice bit of hypocrisy there. So, if I eat locally produced honey from bees that are given a home and a field of flowers, then I am evil. But if Vegans truck caged bees around the world to pollinate their favorite fruit, then that is okay. Got it! Locally sourced, zero carbon footprint is bad and burning tons of oil to truck enslaved animals is good.

  6. Mr T on July 1, 2019 at 12:54 am

    I knew avocados tasted of meat. Now it makes complete sense

  7. Paul on July 26, 2019 at 11:04 am

    “Australia is the only country in the world to remain free of the Varroa mite. This makes Australian honey and wax valuable because it is free of chemical residues used to eliminate the parasite.”
    It also means that our bees are free of the virus….millions of bees are bred and shipped around the world to help pollinate the foods in other countrys…those bees then succumb to the virus and die…..breed and repeat…
    Vegan or not….this is a practice that comes under the banner of animal exploitation.

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