What Is "Cruelty-Free"? Can I trust It?

"Cruelty-Free” May Not Mean What You Think It Does...

As stated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “there are no legal definitions for these terms,” meaning companies are free to use these claims in labeling or advertising as they please. For example, companies may use a cruelty-free claim based solely off the fact they do not perform animal testing on their finished products, despite testing raw materials on animals, or contract a third party to perform animal testing. 

The Sad Reality Of Animal Testing in China

Across the globe ingredients in cosmetics and beauty products do not require animal testing, with one lone exception. China is the only country in the world that requires cosmetic testing on animals for all beauty products sold in the country. As China makes up 20% of the global beauty business many companies are not willing to take an ethical stand against animal testing, as it will affect their bottom line. Because of this, many big name brands that we’ve all had in our cosmetic drawers at some point, still test on animals, or allow third-parties in China to test on animals, in order to sell their products in China.

How To Avoid Misleading “Cruelty-Free” Claims…

Reference an online list of certified cruelty-free brands. Two of the largest & most reputable certification programs that hold brands to a high standard are PETA’s “Global Beauty Without Bunnies”, and the “Leaping Bunny Program”.

Global Beauty Without Bunnies: To qualify for PETA’s Global Beauty Without Bunnies program, a company must complete a questionnaire and sign a statement of assurance that they “shall not conduct, commission, or pay for any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations, or finished products and that they pledge not to do so in the future”. 

Leaping Bunny Program: Leaping Bunny follows the same requirements as PETA’s Global Beauty Without Bunnies, while also requiring companies to implement a “Supplier Monitoring System.” This ensures all of their suppliers and manufacturers are in compliance with their criteria, and are open to independent audits to maintain transparency throughout their supply chain.

Can I Trust Products That Haven’t Been Tested on Animals?

Yes! There is sufficient safety data as well as in-vitro alternatives which completely remove the need to test on animals. In addition, companies may perform other testing alternatives such as cell and tissue cultures. Both healthy and diseased tissues donated from human volunteers can provide a more relevant way of studying human biology and disease and is more acurate than the data or learnings from animal testing.

According to Cruelty Free International, alternatives to animal testing are actually better. Allergy tests in guinea pigs can only predict human reactions 72% of the time, but a combination of chemistry and cell-based alternative methods have been shown to accurately predict human reactions up to 90% of the time. Similarly, the Draize skin irritation test in rabbits can only predict human skin reactions 60% of the time, whereas using reconstituted human skin is up to 86% accurate!