Vegan vs. Cruelty-Free

As the days go by, more and more people are choosing compassion over cruelty towards animals. It may come as no surprise that this makes me really, really happy. I’ve dedicated a year of my life to replacing all of my products with cruelty-free versions (baby steps), and I’m on a mission to educate, inspire and motivate you to do the same thing.

I’ve received a number of questions about going cruelty-free, which I am always so ready to answer, and I thought that I would publish the answers on my blog for future reference. One of the first things I realised is that many people don’t know the difference between products labelled “vegan” and products labelled “cruelty-free“. Truthfully, “cruelty-free” isn’t black and white, and everyone has their own definition of it. I wrote about it in my post titled “Why ‘Not Tested on Animals’ is a Lie“, which you can read here (I really think you should). However, contrary to popular belief, there is a significantly large difference between cosmetics labelled “cruelty-free” and cosmetics labelled “vegan“. 

Firstly, we want to establish the meaning of cruelty-free. A product can only be considered cruelty-free if there is absolutely no animal testing during the creation of the said product, including “required by law” animal testing. You can find a break down of the criteria here

Secondly, we want to establish the meaning of vegan. A product can only be considered vegan if there are absolutely no animal ingredients or animal-derived ingredients in the said product. Non-vegan ingredients include beeswax, carmine, honey, lanolin, gelatin, etc.

If a product is vegan, is it definitely cruelty-free?

No, not at all. Vegan ingredients can still be tested on animals, which means that it cannot be considered cruelty-free. It is possible that a product with a label stating “100% vegan” might not be cruelty-free.

If a product is cruelty-free, is it definitely vegan?

No, not exactly. Cruelty-free generally only refers to animal testing, which means that types of ingredients are overlooked. It is possible that a product with a label stating “cruelty-free” might not be vegan.

Note that some people believe that vegan and cruelty-free go hand-in-hand and that a product cannot be considered 100% vegan unless it is cruelty-free too (see this Tweet). Although this makes perfect sense, the international standard does not take ingredients into consideration when organisations compile their lists of cruelty-free brands. For example, Beauty Without Cruelty’s Humane Guide and PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies list will specify vegan brands with a “V“. 

It is always a good idea to familiarise yourself with common ingredients in cosmetics. I think it’s important to know what you are putting on your body, and if you’re comfortable using certain ingredients (for example, carmine, which is essentially just “the guts of thousands of beetles” used to achieve bright red and pink pigments).

Do you think that cruelty-free and vegan should go hand-in-hand?
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