In the first official update to the site, Noah talks about being biased toward a vegan world. I think he make a great argument about how veganism is about creating a world based on nonexploitation, which of course means starting from a bias favoring the nonexploitation of other animals.
I've noticed this is contrary to some who attempt to take a "nonjudgmental" position by making concessions for some forms of exploitation, such as the exploitation of honey bees. For instance, one organization makes the following claim:
Is honey vegan? Again, it depends on one's definition of vegan. Insects are animals, and so insect products, such as honey and silk, are not traditionally considered vegan. Many vegans, however, are not opposed to using insect products, because they do not believe insects are conscious of pain. Moreover, even if insects were conscious of pain, it's not clear that the production of honey involves any more pain for insects than the production of most vegetables, since the harvesting and transportation of all vegetables involves many 'collateral' insect deaths.
The question remains a matter of scientific debate and personal choice. However, when cooking or labeling food for vegans — particularly vegans you don't know — it's best to be on the safe side and not include honey.
The claims being made in this statement are totally erroneous. There is absolutely no effort being made by this organization to seriously consider the exploitation of honey bees.
First off, there is no "scientific debate" about the ability of honey bees to think or feel. All the scientific literature shows that they do think and feel. We know this, unfortunately, because honey bees are a favorite research subject of neuroethologists, neuroanatomists, and other vivisectionists who study how animals feel and think for the very fact that honey bees are such highly sensitive beings.
As a result there are numerous peer-reviewed research papers that all conclude that honey bees are on par with vertebrates, including most mammals. These papers can be found in Current Opinion in Neurobiology, Nature, Journal of Neuroscience, Primary Neural Substance of Learning and Behavior Change, Naturwissenschaften, and various other scientific journals.
Scientific literature on honey bees is also discussed by Joan Dunayer in her books Animal Equality and Speciesism. It's no doubt Dunayer discusses honey bees in her books because, in the case of honey bees, we find the most unapologetic examples of speciesism – as the above statements on honey and vegans attest to.
So it is, as with those denying the dangers posed by the atmospheric build up of CO2 and other human produced pollutants, the only people claiming there is a "scientific debate" on the ability of honey bees to suffer are non-scientists interested in perpetuating the status quo. The people who make a living dissecting and manipulating honey bees are forced to admit that honey bees feel and think, because their own research clearly shows that they do. So what reason other than simple speciesism would lead us to doubt the sentience of these animals?
Next, the claim that honey is a "personal choice" is also an argument lacking meaningful consideration. This argument has never had a place in the vegan movement, which from the beginning rejected the idea of veganism as "matters of inference and personal predilection." Veganism has always been about abolishing exploitation and creating a nonexploitive society. This includes rejecting the use of honey as a form of exploitation.
Sure, any of us can make a personal choice to consume honey, just like we can make a personal choice to consume other animals' milk, eggs, or flesh, or wear their skin and fur, or be a spectator to their torment in a circus or rodeo. However, none of our personal choices to participate in the exploitation of other animals will change the fact that veganism is a social movement opposed to all forms of exploitation of any animals – big or small, with a backbone or without.
That is to say, veganism as a philosophy and way of life is not alterable to our personal choices. Recall that veganism as a movement was formed as a critical response to the way many vegetarians where depoliticizing and rationalizing the exploitation of other animals in order to consume their milk and eggs. Honey is not vegan even if some self-identified vegans use it, sell it, or acquire it for others, because the human use of honey is counter to the vegan ideal of nonexploitation.
Yes, I think people can make judgments for themselves and that's why I am in favor of people being critical about honey. If we aren't thinking critically, then we'll defer to others' interpretation – especially whatever is most convenient and supported by the status quo – instead of doing the challenging work of making meaningful judgments. Obviously each of us should take responsibility for our own choices to the extent that we have control over them, but we also need to be accountable for those choices as well.
Not clearly stating the vegan position on opposing the use of honey as a form of exploitation is about absolving ourselves of responsibility and accountability. It's about giving ourselves a reason not to personally make the decisions that will best respect honey bees as feeling beings.
Worst of all, and perhaps most revealing, is the argument that since some insects are inevitable going to get smashed and killed by thoughtless human interferences, then we might as well wade into the wholesale exploitation of honey bees. Here, above all else, being nonjudgmental means consciously refusing to even attempt to make a thoughtful judgment of how our actions affect honey bees. Honey bees are simply written off as outside of our consideration.
Yes, there is a personal choice being made here, and that choice is to intentionally contribute to the exploitation of other animals. This is about dodging the serious questions about the exploitation of honey bees. Why are honey bees being exploited? How can we avoid perpetuating this exploitation? What can we do to eliminate this exploitation, and to foster nonexploitation instead? These are the questions that should go into the critical thinking process used by us as vegans when we are making personal choices.