“Is your brand cruelty-free?”
This question, while important, is in fact quite wanting. Consumers with good intentions will ask a brand whether or not it is cruelty-free and will rejoice when they receive an affirmative answer. Unfortunately, this question does not capture several important factors in the world of animal testing. In this post, I explain why asking this question and receiving plain cruelty-free claims is not enough.
1. No regulation of the term ‘cruelty-free’
The most noteworthy reason why the aforementioned question is inadequate is because the term ‘cruelty-free’ itself is not regulated. Essentially, this means that each individual brand can interpret the term however it wants. Evidently, the common sense definition of the term is the absence of cruelty or animal testing. But beyond that, there is no legal standard that regulates the use of the term. So plainly asking a brand if it is cruelty-free is essentially useless.
2. Ingredient vs. Finished product
While a company may not have tested the finished cosmetic product on animals, it may still have tested the raw ingredients on animals beforehand. Brands can then claim that they are cruelty-free because their products were not tested on animals.
3. Third parties
A brand can ask a third party to perform animal testing on their behalf. So if we ask a brand “are you cruelty-free?”, they can still say yes because technically they did not perform the animal testing themselves.
Just because the brand didn’t test the raw ingredients they used on animals, it doesn’t mean that the suppliers from which they source those ingredients didn’t perform any animal testing. Again, brands can then say they are cruelty-free because they did not perform the animal testing themselves.
5. Regulatory agencies
In all countries, governments enact regulations to protect consumers from products which may be detrimental to their health. Each country will have their own way of assessing the safety of a product and, in some cases, this may include animal testing. When a brand wants to enter onto a given country’s market, they will have to comply with that country’s regulations and will therefore be aware of whether or not animal testing will be required. So again, simply asking a brand if they are cruelty-free will not capture whether or not any animal testing was performed by regulatory agencies.
Any company that sells their products in mainland China is willingly agreeing to animal testing simply because, by law, all imported cosmetic products must be tested on animals. (This law does not affect brands that only ship to China through online purchases)
7. Parent companies
A brand can be cruelty-free but can have a parent company that does perform animal testing. There are varying opinions on whether or not we should support brands with parent companies that test on animals. However, this is beyond the scope of this post. It is simply worth noting that parent companies are another aspect of animal testing that is not captured in the simple “are you cruelty-free?” question.
8. Pharmaceutical ingredients or formulations
Even in countries where animal testing for cosmetic purposes is prohibited, there is usually an exception for any pharmaceutical ingredients or formulations. So if a product contains a pharmaceutical ingredient or formulation, it may not be cruelty-free.
So what now?
As a cruelty-free consumer, my ultimate goal is to ensure that no animals were harmed in the making of the products I am purchasing. Simply asking a brand if it is cruelty-free overlooks a range of factors that must be considered when determining if a brand participated in any animal testing during the course of production.
Since brands have become quite adept at misleading consumers, the questions we pose must be carefully worded and exhaustive. Is it sad that it has come to this point? Yes. Does that mean that consumers are powerless? NO! We must simply choose to become educated consumers and demand what is right from the brands we support. Stay tuned for more on this topic!
Let’s chat in the comment section – leave any questions or comments you have below!
Find out more about Briogeo’s cruelty-free status here.