Navigating the Cruelty Free Minefield and Making the Right Decisions

Navigating the Cruelty Free Minefield and Making the Right Decisions

In light of recent announcements on the subject of CoverGirl and Dove cruelty-free statuses, I’d thought I’d write a short piece asking what is cruelty-free. Join me as I navigate the minefield and learn to make informed decisions as a consumer.

What is cruelty-free?

The label ‘cruelty-free’ is given to a brand that does not test its products on animals. Animal testing is often carried out on make-up, skincare and household products. Even condoms can be tested on animals! Basically, anything that comes into contact with your skin could potentially be tested on animals.

Animal testing is a gruelling and out-dated practice. Rabbits, cats, dogs, mice, fish and even monkeys are kept in horrific conditions and subjected to disgusting tests for a product to be deemed suitable for human use.

If a product is ‘cruelty-free’ it is not necessarily vegetarian or vegan, as products can still contain animal ingredients but not be tested on animals. As a vegan, I strive to purchase only products that are not tested on animals and are suitable for vegans. A little more on that later.

Can a brand lie about testing on animals?

Many brands will make the bold claim on their website that they do not test on animals, nor do they own any testing facilities or pay for anyone to do it on their behalf. However, if their products are sold in China (on the high street, the line is not as definite when it comes to selling online), the government dictates that all products must be tested on animals. Therefore, the likes of MAC, Rimmel, L’Oreal, Chanel, Max Factor (to name but a few) are NEVER cruelty-free, until they decide to stop selling their products in the Chinese market.

In recent years, many brands have made the controversial decision to start selling in China, and therefore sacrifice their morals for the financial gains that come with the world’s largest consumer market. For example, back in June 2017 one of my favourite makeup brands, NARS, started selling on the Chinese high street, therefore partaking in the strict and cruelty animal testing guidelines enforced by the Chinese government.

mac makeup storeMAC is not a cruelty-free brand. Image credit: Hobvias Sudoneighm.

Can a brand be cruelty-free when the parent company is not?

This is a hotly discussed topic online that many influencers share differing opinions on. Brands like Urban Decay are cruelty-free, they do not test on animals and their products are not available in China. However, Urban Decay is owned by L’Oreal, which is one of the largest contributors to the animal testing regime in China. Therefore, by purchasing from Urban Decay you could argue that your money trickles to L’Oreal and therefore you are supporting a company that actively tests on animals. The other side of the argument is that by buying from L’Oreal’s cruelty-free subsidiaries, you are showing demand for this method and therefore, demand increases supply and will hopefully increase the number of brands recognising that there is money in going cruelty-free.

I’m not going to tell you whether its OK to purchase from brands with parent companies that test on animals, but I will say that you should make your choice carefully and always consider fully cruelty free brands first.

How do I find out if a brand is cruelty-free?

As you can see from the above, finding a cruelty free brand is a minefield. Brands will lie (or just dodge direct questions) to prove they are “cruelty-free”, when they are in fact actively taking part in cruel and disgusting animal testing regimes every day. The hardline is that if a brand sells in China, don’t buy it. If a brand is cruelty-free, like Urban Decay, but owned by a company that tests on animals, L’Oreal, then it’s your choice whether to buy into this brand or not.

There is no single leading body on determining whether a brand is cruelty-free, however, there are many places to keep an eye on before making your decision. The Leaping Bunny logo is one you will definitely be familiar with, its logo appears on makeup, skincare, household cleaning and many other types of products highlighting that they have not been tested on animals.  Following its departure from owners L’Oreal, The Body Shop recently received the Leaping Bunny logo, making it a great cruelty-free high street brand to buy into this Christmas.

leaping bunny

If the product you want doesn’t have a bunny logo, then head to Tashina Comb’s website Logical Harmony to see whether the brand has made her list. As a global authority on cruelty-free, Tashina works closely with brands to determine their exact cruelty-free status, whether the products are sold in China, suitable for vegans or owned by a non-cruelty free parent company.

The great thing about Tashina, over Leaping Bunny, is that she takes all elements into account, speaks directly with the company and is incredibly careful before branding a company ‘ cruelty-free’ in her eyes. An example of this is Covergirl, a huge beauty US beauty brand, that recently received the Leaping Bunny certification. Although the brand is now cruelty-free, it still has many non-vegan products and this is where things start to get even more complicated.

Check out Logical Harmony’s recent video about Covergirl cruelty-free status below.

Are all cruelty-free products suitable for vegans?

You’d think if a brand was ‘cruelty-free’ this would mean just that… no cruelty to animals! Unfortunately not, this is another difficult issue to navigate, as cruelty-free does not mean vegan. There are many cruelty-free brands like Kat Von D, wet n wild and NYX that proudly hold the certification but are not entirely vegan. Whether it’s carmine (crushed beetles for red colouring) or beeswax (often found in lipsticks and lip balms), there are a mountain of ingredients to consider before making your purchase. Luckily for you, Logical Harmony lists all vegan products on their website so you don’t have to go searching for each individual ingredient every time you fancy a new lippy.

What about medication? Isn’t that tested on animals?

Yes, animal testing is still prevalent in the pharmaceutical industries. However, as The Vegan Society states that as vegans we should avoid the consumption of animal products and supporting the animal cruelty industries “as far as is practical and possible” and we should not turn down medication if it is not suitable for vegans or tested on animals, especially for serious conditions. A healthy vegan is far more useful to the message than a dead one.

What do you think about the cruelty-free minefield? Which is your go-to authority on cruelty-free and vegan products? Let us know in the comments below!

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