Veganism has a definition, a philosophy and a goal. Vegans try to behave in a way that is consistent with those things. Since honey is an animal product it is not considered vegan.
Also whether you agree with this or not, it doesn't matter how the animal is treated. the dairy cows and laying chickens could lead wonderful lives. but milk and eggs aren't vegan. So its consistent that it doesn't matter how the bees are treated as well.
The honey is stolen from the bees. For many vegans that is all, they need to know. It’s exploitation of an animal.
Another fact that vegans consider is that honey is not necessary or essential to the human diet. There ARE other sweeteners.
Also, there is harm done to bees by beekeepers. Some beekeepers are small businesses and like small farms do take good care of their bees. They still steal the honey. Clipping of wings, replacing (killing) the queen... these are just some of the practices that vegans see as a cruel
Also, the big commercial beekeeping companies transport their hives in semis. and the transportation of the bees puts them under a lot of stress and millions of them die during the trips.
Regardless, honey is still a gray area for vegans. There are so many vegans that think its OK to eat honey they have a label: Begans. (Bee-gans, get it?)
the two big controversies among vegans stem from two things. one is the issue of insects. Granted they are animals but they have brains the size of a ballpoint pen tip. On the other hand, they do exhibit complex and social behavior. So where do you draw the line?
the other issue is that commercial beekeeping results in the fertilization of most fruit and nut trees. Something like 100 crops are dependent on commercial beekeeping fertilizing the crops.
So If beekeeping isn't vegan - then neither are fruits and nuts. Vegans eat the crops that are pollinated by these bees. There is really no way to avoid them. Some vegans think that if crops are a byproduct of bee exploitation, and vegans eat crops, then why not honey, too?
In general, honey bees are better cared for then commercial bees.
The (pure ) vegan argument is that the vegan doctrine states animal suffering should be "reasonably avoided" as opposed to "avoided at any cost." And it's more than possible to avoid purchasing honey. It would be almost impossible to avoid all the foods that are pollinated by bees.
Another issue that complicates the issue is that allowing honey consumption puts a vegan on a slippery slope. If one animal product is ok, then maybe two are, too. or three. If insects are fair game, then what about bivalves like clams? and it its little brains that are being used for a distinction, then maybe lobsters are OK too.
if you have to draw the line somewhere, the easiest place for that line is at the distinction between plants and animals. And insects are animals.
To further complicate the whole thing. Right now we are in the middle of a huge bee die-off. no one is sure of what has caused Colony Collapse Disorder(CCD). But many experts suspect it might have to do with pesticides and fungicides, that the commercial bees are exposed to when they fertilize crops. It's possible that the CCD is human-caused.
-- another possible reason to support organic farming.
The honey bees used for honey production are generally better-taken care of than the commercial bees that pollinate our crops. You can buy organic honey (and Free Trade honey, too). So you could argue that buying honey is helping to preserve and protect bees.
vegans are mostly intelligent thinking people. Each vegan is more than qualified to make up their own mind.
I do recommend that if you want to determine where you stand on this issue you take the time to read my links.
Oh, BTW, I have a little jar of honey in my pantry for when I get a sore throat.