Discussion: Are figs vegan?

You’d be forgiven for simply thinking that figs are a fruit and so vegans should feel comfortable eating them. Full-stop.

It’s not quite that simple however and there is some rationale for thinking that figs aren’t vegan.

In this article we’re going to briefly explain both viewpoints, but before we get there we feel it’s important to offer a brief introduction into figs and how they’re grown

Facing facts: The truth about figs

It’s a common misunderstanding that figs are a fruit. In fact they are more of an inverted flower with the blooms occurring inside the pod (“fruit”).

Since the flowers are inside the pod rather than out in the open like normal flowers, it is a bit harder for the figs to be pollinated. This is where the fig wasp plays a vital role. 

As the name implies, a fig-wasps life begins and ends within a fig. In fact the males are born without wings & spend their entire life within the same fig.

That means they are born in a fig, and die in a fig. The females differ in that they travel from fig-to-fig, but they are known to perish within figs too.

And that’s the crux of the argument – it’s possible/probable that your fig contains the remains of a dead wasp or two.

Let’s explore both arguments in more detail.

Argument #1: Figs are vegan.

One credible definition of the word “veganism”, defined by the Vegan Society, seems to communicate that veganism is focused on putting an end to the cruelty against animals that are caused by traditional meat farming practices. 

“a philosophy and 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; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

Vegan Society

Although the last sentence clearly mentioned products “derived wholly or partly from animals”, we can also see that the definition says to do so “as far as is possible and practicable”. 

With this in mind, many vegans argue that there is a major difference between factory/meat farming and the eating of insect matter that occurs when consuming a fig. 

Additionally, if the argument is that figs may contain naturally-occurring insects, then people should also question their practice of eating bread or other produce, which often result in the accidental (or purposeful) death of animals. Examples being farmers using rat poison or pesticide.

Figs are a very nutritious “fruit” that contains a lot of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which is reason enough for many to want to still eat it.

With this and the above facts in mind, it makes for a compelling argument to consider figs as vegan food. 

Argument #2: Figs are NOT vegan. 

The other half of vegans who say figs are not vegan are those who believe in a stricter definition of the lifestyle.

In this argument, vegans argue that veganism is a lifestyle that “denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

Since figs rely on fig wasps in order to pollinate and reproduce, most figs contain at least one dead wasp in them.

If the above is true (that we should avoid products wholly or partly from animals), then figs are definitely not vegan in nature. 

According to several studies, the female fig wasps do not die a “happy” death either.

Rather, they spend a very long time digging through the outer body of the fig trying to find a place to lay their eggs before ultimately ending up on the inside.

The digging process leaves them wingless, battered, torn and exhausted to boot. They have little hope of survival after such an ordeal.

With this in mind, the ‘no’ camp argues that vegans should refuse eating figs and opt for one of the many alternatives.

What do you think? 

As you can see, there is a very strong and compelling argument on both ends of the spectrum.

In our humble opinion, we do not choose to represent either side. Rather, we believe that a bit of intuition is necessary, and you should simply make the decision that you believe is best for you. 

What are your thoughts on this argument? Join the discussion by letting us know in the comments below!