Why cruelty-free matters.
(Read on to learn why cruelty-free matters, what it means, my thoughts on parent companies, and the difference between “cruelty-free” and “vegan”. Be assured that I will never post any graphic images!)
My middle school classmates and I would spend hours in English class researching for our persuasive articles, choosing the perfect WordArt for the title, and being scolded for printing too many pictures on the library printer.
One common topic I remember was “Why Animal Testing Should Be Banned.” We all seemed to be in agreement. Bunnies shouldn’t have to be hurt or killed, for any reason. We cried at the thought of moving up to high school, because it meant we would have to dissect animals.
But, we got over it. I mean, we had to if we wanted to pass the class. As hard as we tried, there just was not any other option at the time.
What about now? Do we have to sit and accept the things we think are cruel? Is there really no other alternative? Well, the answer is no.
There are plentiful alternatives to products that are tested on animals. The archaic practice of animal testing is still allowed in many parts of the world – and mandatory in others.
Unfortunately for consumers, there is no legal definition for the terms “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals.” This means that cosmetics companies can claim that they are cruelty-free, even though their products are very much tested on animals.
This is where it gets tricky. Oftentimes, companies will claim to be cruelty-free because they do not test their finished products on animals, but their suppliers test the raw ingredients on animals. Or, they sell in areas where animal testing is required by law. Namely, mainland China.
There have been rumors circulating for years and years about how the Chinese government is going to abolish animal testing, and they have yet to follow through. The most recent news (as of August 2020) is that they are planning to ban post-market testing, which means that products cannot be pulled from shelves and tested on animals. This usually would happen if someone files a claim against a brand for something like an allergic reaction. However, even if post-market testing is banned, there is the possibility of pre-market testing.
This latest news would still allow pre-market testing for designated “special use” cosmetics such as sunscreen or deodorant. While it is a step in the right direction, we’re far from finished.
However, companies that want to tap into that sweet, sweet dollar-dollar bill cosmetics market that is China, the only way for them to do so and remain cruelty-free is to sell through ecommerce. These laws do not apply to cosmetics sold direct-to-consumer online.
There are also some misconceptions about cosmetics manufactured in China. A product simply being manufactured in China does not negate its cruelty-free status. Countless products are manufactured in, but not sold in, China. The testing laws do not apply to these products, unless they are going to be sold in physical stores in mainland China. I told you, it’s tricky.
On this blog or my other social media, if a company is considered not cruelty-free because they sell in China, they will just be referred to as “not cruelty-free.” They made the choice to sacrifice their ethics for money, and that ain’t cool.
Yet another frustrating part is that you will often see on cosmetics company websites and FAQ sections that the brand does not test on animals, or they have a little bunny logo on their displays and packaging. This does NOT always mean that they are cruelty-free. Like I said earlier, there is no legal definition of “cruelty-free.” Always double-check before you buy. I have links to some great resources farther down in this post.
So what about parent companies?
You see… it gets more tricky. That’s why I’m here to help you out.
Sometimes, companies will be acquired/bought by other companies. These would be referred to as “parent” and “child” companies. So let’s say that Company A wants to buy Company B. Company B is cruelty-free, but Company A is not. If Company A buys Company B, there’s a dilemma.
You will find that bloggers and other consumers have differing opinions on this topic, which is totally fine. I’m here to provide you this information so you can decide what you want to do.
So some people would not consider Company B to be cruelty-free any longer, since if you buy their products, part of the money goes to Company A.
(I’m not using specific examples because information is constantly changing.)
On the positive side, Company B would now have access to more resources to be able to expand their range and be more easily accessible.
This is where I personally stand at this time. I would continue to use Company B, as long as the company remains independently cruelty-free. Most of the time they do, sometimes they don’t.
Whenever possible, I will denote when a brand is owned by a parent company that is not cruelty-free, so that you can avoid them if you would prefer. I want to give you as many options as possible so that you can make informed decisions.
I will try to keep up with the latest news regarding cruelty-free changes such as new brands, brands entering or leaving China, etc. Twitter and Instagram are the best places to keep up with this, as it’s faster to post there.
I actually do not have any plans at this time to make my own brand list, but I do trust and cross-reference Logical Harmony and Leaping Bunny when I determine if a brand is cruelty-free.
There are other factors that go into my decisions as well. Being cruelty-free is not enough on its own for a brand to earn my support. I am focusing on brands that are inclusive in their shade ranges, not owned by racists, and have shown growth if they have been problematic in the past. It’s not “cancel culture,” I would rather support brands that are doing good in the world. If they change, that’s great.
So if you are ever wondering why I do not feature a certain brand, it’s because they either are not cruelty-free according to the lists above, are problematic in some way, or I just simply haven’t had a chance to test them out yet!
What’s the difference between vegan and cruelty-free?
The terms “cruelty-free” and “vegan” are not interchangeable. I wish they were, but nobody asked my opinion when they made them.
“Cruelty-free,” as we talked about earlier, means that a product was not tested on animals. Period.
“Vegan” means that a product does not contain any animal products or by-products. This can be in reference to cosmetics, clothing, or food.
Some common animal-derived ingredients in cosmetics are carmine, honey, beeswax, silk, collagen, paraffin, and more. Some of these ingredients have pretty good vegan alternatives, often brands will say in their ingredients if it is plant-derived. But they won’t say that it is animal-derived haha.
So if a product is labelled “cruelty-free,” it can still contain animal products, it just cannot be tested on animals.
If a product is labelled “vegan,” (which very few products are labelled outright, sadly, even if they indeed are vegan), then it does not contain any animal ingredients….
HOWEVER… just because a product is labelled “vegan,” that does not also mean that the product is cruelty-free. Join me in ripping my hair out.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, there are NO legal definitions for these terms. I have seen far too many companies who advertise their “vegan formula!!!” but literally test on animals. I have also seen companies claim to be cruelty-free, and literally test on animals.
All of this leaves most people (myself included) very confused and afraid that they will mess up.
Messing up is okay! You won’t singlehandedly undermine the cruelty-free movement if you accidentally buy a mascara that is not cruelty-free. I have made several mistakes, even taking for granted that products were vegan, when they weren’t.
Links to relevant blog posts:
What to do if you accidentally buy a non cruelty-free product – or – what to do with old non cruelty-free products still in your collection!