Have you ever asked a company if they’re cruelty-free, and their response went a little something like: “we take animal testing very seriously and we do not test our products on animals”, followed by a long explanation about how they conform to EU regulations and how they’ve partnered with some research facility? If they’re really special, they might even call themselves “leaders in the movement to end animal testing globally” (click the link, I dare you). It sounds legit, so they’re definitely cruelty-free, right?
Receiving a vague response like that should definitely set off the alarm bells in your head. I’m not saying that it means the brand is absolutely not cruelty-free, but it is the typical misleading response that many people accept as the whole truth. Unfortunately, the real truth is that “cruelty-free” and “not tested on animals” are unregulated phrases. This simply means that they could mean anything to anyone. Confusingly enough, cruelty-free doesn’t necessarily mean cruelty-free, just like organic doesn’t necessarily mean organic (and natural doesn’t always mean what you think it means). This is how the giants in the beauty (and food) industry easily get away with misleading consumers.
Ethical Elephant appropriately refers to this as “labelling loopholes“, which allows companies to slap these phrases, and variations of the bunny logo we all know and love, on their products and websites- even if they’re being big, fat liars. Right now, no one can stop them.
For many years, I thought that I was only using cruelty-free beauty products. I thought that, if the company is based in Europe (where there is an animal-testing ban), then the products can definitely be considered cruelty-free. I was wrong. Conforming to EU regulations doesn’t make a company cruelty-free. I was most disappointed with Revlon, who LIED to over 3 million members of PETA (and the world) for more than 20 YEARS. According to PETA, Revlon had been secretly paying for tests on animals while selling in China (and simultaneously enjoying the benefits of PETA’s support and promotions). Why would anybody want to support a disgusting, dirty business like that?
Remember that there are a number of factors to consider before assuming a brand is cruelty-free. Products and ingredients shouldn’t be tested on animals, third parties should not test on animals, suppliers should not test on animals, products should not be sold in countries where animal testing is required by law (e.g. mainland China), etc. Now think about how much you can hide with a simple “our products aren’t tested on animals” or “we don’t test on animals“.
This is one of the reasons why I started my Are They Really Cruelty-Free series. Claiming to be cruelty-free is a big deal, and if a brand can’t guarantee that their products and ingredients aren’t cruelty-free (amongst other things), then they should not label their products with the phrase “not tested on animals” and they absolutely should not call themselves cruelty-free. It is misleading and, in my opinion, false advertising. At this point, I must reiterate the fact that my definition of cruelty-free may be less strict than your definition of cruelty-free, but this definitely can be considered the standard definition on to which more (NOT less) requirements can be added (for example, perhaps you believe that parent companies should be cruelty-free too, or that the products should be strictly vegan, or that the companies should be certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny). If you’re curious about what I consider cruelty-free, click here.
Fun Fact: Out of all of the brands that I questioned in my abovementioned series, brands who have sworn to be 100% cruelty-free, NONE could actually prove that they are 100% cruelty-free.
And it drives me crazy.
Allure found that 73% of millennial women seek clean, natural products, while PCRM found that 81% of consumers expect these “natural” products to have not been tested on animals. The most important aim of a business is to make a profit. With the rapidly growing demand for cruelty-free products, companies have grabbed the opportunity of using loopholes, and consumer naivety, to cater to the market. It’s textbook.
From consumer to consumer: Question companies on their claims. Don’t give them the satisfaction of lining their pockets by misleading you with their greenwashing.
From blogger to blogger: Don’t tell your audience a product is cruelty-free if you haven’t taken the time to research these claims. They rely on you to give them accurate information- don’t lie to them.