Because of all the bee labor, apparently

By Mike Pomranz
Updated October 15, 2018
avocado from mexico
Credit: FotografiaBasica / Getty Images

It seemed like an easy question. A little too easy, maybe? On a recent episode of the BBC quiz show QI, host Sandi Toksvig asked, “Which of these can you eat if you’re a strict vegan?” Five items were listed: almonds, an avocado, a melon, kiwis, and a butternut squash. Sensing the whole thing was a setup, the four panelists were only able to say the unsure answer of “All of them?”

Well, according to the show, the answer is actually none of them. Wait, what? If you can’t eat nuts and fruit as a vegan—even a strict one—what can you eat?

Well, if the show is to be believed, you also have to stay away from items that involve too much bee labor. “It's the same reason as honey,” explained Toksvig. “They can't exist without bees, and bees are used in, let's call it an ‘unnatural way.’ Because they are so difficult to cultivate naturally, all of these crops rely on bees which are placed on the back of trucks and taken very long distances across the country. It is called migratory beekeeping… and it's an unnatural use of animals and there are lots of foods that fall foul of this. Broccoli is a good example. Cherries, cucumbers, lettuce. Lots and lots of vegan things are actually not strictly vegan.”

Toksvig then punctuated the whole thing with this line: “Bad news for millennials I’m afraid: Avocado toast is usually not vegan.” (Though she never explains how if avocados aren’t vegan that avocado toast is only “usually” not vegan.)

If this all sounds like something one vegan came up with to impress another less hardcore vegan, the site Plant Based News, which knows a thing or two about plant-based eating, decided to reach out to The Vegan Society to fact check this admittedly, in-its-own-description “comedy quiz show.” (For the record, the correct answers are not meant to be the comedy.)

“Vegans avoid using animals as far as possible and practicable,” spokesperson Dominika Piasecka told the site, essentially refuting the BBC’s statement. “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.” To put it another way, everything sucks, but you can only let yourself go down the rabbit hole so far before you never return.

That being said, The Vegan Society also said these issues shouldn’t be ignored. “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,” Piasecka continued. “Vegans make a huge contribution to the reduction in suffering and death caused to animals and we would welcome any changes made to farming practises that support this.”

Meanwhile, the controversy this claim created has certainly been beneficial to QI. Its short 90-second clip was one of the British network’s most popular for the week and has gotten the quiz show a bit of international attention.