What does Cruelty Free really mean?
I have been a passionate vegan for over 2 years. The turning point for me was watching Vegucated on Netflix. Once I had seen the cruelty of the animal agriculture industry- it couldn’t be unseen! One of the first things you learn going vegan is to read labels. That’s basically the majority of the first few weeks! Learning about numbers and ingredient jargon. Milk sneaks into so many things unnecessarily (even herb pastes! NOOO WHY!?!?). Reading labels and deciphering numbers quickly becomes second nature with food products but when it comes to beauty products and skincare it can be a little trickier, but equally as important! Hopefully this guide can help you cut through the marketing claims of many big beauty corporations and help you decide what to look for when choosing ethical, vegan skincare. To me ethical encompasses all of the following equally important factors; you’ll soon see why just seeking ‘vegan’ skincare is not enough (and the term itself can often be misused in labelling)!
Such an abhorrent practice! Animals are bred in captivity for the specific purpose of being subjected to cruel and painful experiments that often result in injury, blindness and/ or death. Mice, rats, cats, monkeys, rabbit and dogs are all routinely used for these tests- we know these animals. We know they feel pain and fear and have deep emotions. Some tests may involve simple procedures like taking blood. But there are also tests where they are placed in boxes where their heads are held still and their eyes are forced open, and they are exposed to chemical substances to determine ‘safe’ levels of use in products. This is repeated over and over again as long as the animal is alive. And then they are euthanized- often by gas and in some cases to have their organs removed and examined. I think people have this idea of animal testing as applying lipstick or shampoo to a rabbit. It’s a hard reality to face that this is what their lives consist of everyday, and that purchasing products tested on animals is directly paying for this practice to continue. This process has now been banned in many countries but we have a long way to go in this fight!
China is often a large issue of controversy and confusion when it comes to Beauty products. They present a big market and a lot of potential revenue for companies. A lot of companies these days do not test on animals themselves- but by choosing to sell in China their products are legally required to be tested on animals by a third party. Many companies still sell in China despite this occurrence and this means that they accept and condone the use of animal testing in order to make money. If a big brand is not on the choose cruelty free list, it generally means that their products are tested on animals. If you are unsure- email them! They should be happy to help, but if you receive a standard response that reads something like: “we do not test our products or ingredients on animals, except where required by law”. It is a sneaky, confusing and roundabout way of saying- yes our products are and have been tested on animals.
Often a brand or company can be cruelty free and vegan- but is owned by a larger company or group that do test on animals or sell products in China. This can often be trickier to tell and is a personal choice when it comes to buying products! But once again, email to ask if you are unsure. Some people believe that buying products from these business’s creates an increased demand for ethical products, while some believe that it is funding those big parent companies and therefore supporting animal cruelty. I believe this is something you have to think on and decide for yourself where you sit. But I also believe that where possible we should be supporting completely vegan, cruelty free and ethical business’s who have specifically set out from this belief, and congratulating them on making such great, kind products!
This means that a product, and it’s ingredients are not and have not been tested on animals or sold in China! The criteria to meet this standard are quite strict and companies need to supply information and guarantees from their suppliers to be accredited. Look for companies accredited by Choose Cruelty Free or The Leaping Bunny. Choose Cruelty Free are Australia based and have an app you can download, or you can search their website to find out if your favorite products are cruelty free.
This means that products contain no animal products or derivatives. When you read about some of the ingredients and where they are derived- they can be pretty disgusting! Common animal products used in skincare are: milk, honey, beeswax, eggs, lanolin (oil glands from sheep), cochineal (crushed bugs), lactic acid (from blood and muscle tissue), glycerin (from animal fat) and so many more! Peta have a really great and comprehensive list of commonly used animal ingredients here. We know plants are amazing to nourish our insides and they are totally sufficient and amazing for nourishing our skin too! Some products may be technically vegan (contain no animal derivatives), but not be cruelty free or vice versa. This is where reading labels and becoming familiar with logos like the Sunflower and the V heart comes in handy.
In itself, palm oil is not an issue- it is the way it is farmed and harvested which is causing so many problems within the world. It takes a large amount of space and time to grow to a stage where it can be processed for use as an ingredient in food or skincare. This is leading to massive deforestation of rainforests; over 300 football fields of rainforest are destroyed every hour to make way for more plantations. This results in the death of around 50 orangutans a week and put many more endangered species at risk including Clouded Leopards, Sumatran Tigers, Pygmy Elephants and Sun Bears. Palm oil is such a sneaky ingredient too and hides under many names- vegetable oil, SLS, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, glycerin etc. Basically anything that foams will likely contain palm oil so once again this is a good one to email and ask you favorite companies if they use palm oil and if it is responsibly sourced! Palm Oil Investigations are a great source of information on this topic.
There is sooooo much information to take in when it comes to choosing skincare! Hope this helps, and as always- email if you are unsure!
Special thanks to Alba for her amazing artwork! You can find her on Instagram at @Albaparis or purchase her work here: http://albaparisart.com
xx Nicola Marie.