Are Figs Vegan? The ‘Dead Wasp’ Process Explained

It’s long been claimed that figs are an example of a non-vegan fruit - but is the rumor true?


3 Minutes Read

A collection of figs, which are a vegan-friendly fruit Are figs acceptable for those on a vegan or vegetarian diet? - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

Over the last few years, rumors have circulated that figs aren’t vegan-friendly due to the fact that they require a wasp to die in the pollination process. 

Figs are a hugely popular food all over the world. They’re eaten in salads or desserts, or just as a snack on their own. Many people may be shocked, therefore, to learn that they’re often thought of as unsuitable for those on plant-based and vegetarian diets.

The rise of veganism has also seen an increase in rumors and misinformation about the lifestyle. Many people attempt to discredit the movement by claiming that a host of fruits and vegetables are products of animal cruelty. And, that vegans are therefore hypocrites for eating just about anything. 

While it’s true that some vegan foods may involve animals in some way, that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t vegan. Here’s your need-to-know on the truth about figs.

Do figs really contain wasps?

A group of wasps pollinating a fig
Adobe Stock Some figs do require wasps to pollinate them

Some types of figs are pollinated by “fig wasps” who enter and lay their eggs inside them. These wasps and fig trees rely on each other to reproduce, with scientists believing they evolved alongside each other. The wasp pollinates the fig tree, and the tree in turn pollinates the wasp by enabling them to lay their eggs inside it. 

When entering the tree, the female wasp will often lose her wings in the process, meaning she is unable to get out. After laying her eggs, she will then die inside the fig. This leads many to believe that the figs we buy in the supermarket contain wasps, and are therefore unsuitable for vegans. 

Does this mean figs aren’t vegan-friendly?

A cut open vegan-friendly fig sitting on top of some whole ones
Adobe Stock Despite the rumors, figs are perfectly fine to eat on a vegan diet

While it’s true that some figs do involve wasps in their pollination, this does not mean they aren’t vegan. This is a wholly natural process, and doesn’t involve human-led exploitation of animals, which veganism seeks to exclude

The eggs that the female lays within the fig will exit while still larvae, meaning she is giving way to more life by dying. Both the fig and wasp have evolved that way, and the process is not comparable to unnatural farming practices.

The wasp will also be digested within the fig. This means there is no chance a human will unwittingly eat the corpse of the insect when biting into the fruit. 

What’s more, the figs typically eaten by humans often don’t involve wasp pollination at all. This means that there will likely have never been wasps or wasp eggs present inside them. 

Are any other fruits unsuitable for vegans?

It’s extremely rare for fruits and vegetables to be unsuitable for vegans. Many people believe that foods like avocados, melons, butternut squash, and almonds aren’t vegan-friendly. This is due to the fact that they require migratory beekeeping as part of the production process. 

While this is undoubtedly an example of animal exploitation, there is very little vegans can do to avoid all indirect cruelty in their food. Veganism is about excluding cruelty as much as possible, and perfection isn’t always possible in this regard. 

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