What Does Cruelty Free REALLY Mean?

Consumers are becoming increasingly more astute when it comes to the sustainability and procurement of not only their food but their beauty care products as well. There are a variety of labels used in the cosmetics industry: organic, vegan, gluten free, lactose free, and cruelty free. It can be confusing. What does cruelty free really mean? Here are facts about that cute little bunny logo you may not know.

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The cruelty free designation indicates that animals were not used for testing in the development of a product. In a perfect world, there would be no need for such a label because all products would be humanely produced. Sadly, that’s not the world we live in, with many companies using animals for experimentation. Here are other specifics you may not know.

Vegan And Cruelty Free Are Not The Same Thing

The terms vegan and cruelty free are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t synonymous. If a product is vegan, it means it’s free of animal byproducts, including lanolin, beeswax, honey, gelatin, cholesterol, or collagen, to name a few ingredients derived from animals.

Cruelty free, on the other hand, means that animals are not used for testing purposes or experimentation, from the sourcing of raw ingredients, to the final stages of product development, stating that animals can in no way be harmed or killed. Since there is no legal definition, individual brands in essence have the final say in determining what the label means.

Consumers often associate vegan products as also being cruelty free. This is a misnomer, as a product may be vegan and free from animal derivatives, yet they are still used for experimentation during product development. Check out the site Choose Cruelty Free to see a list of accredited companies.

There Is No Legal Definition Of Cruelty Free

The label “cruelty free” is not regulated or enforced by government entities, which I find pretty sobering. The label could indicate that animals were not used in product development OR it could mean the product’s ingredients were in fact tested on animals, excluding the final product, thereby making it cruelty free, which is extremely duplicitous.

Some companies design their own bunny logos, and say they are animal friendly, when in reality they aren’t affiliated with groups concerned about animal rights. Cosmetic brands can make some fairly broad claims when it comes to their products being cruelty free, which is due to the lack of comprehensive mandates on animal testing.

For instance, if a company sources their ingredients from a third party who used animals for testing, they can still incorporate the designation on their product. Of course, using the label is in their best interest since products labeled cruelty free are more likely to sell with the public becoming increasingly more health conscious.

Promolife healthy lifestyles bannerLaws In China Require That All Cosmetics Be Tested On Animals

The United States does not require ingredients in cosmetics to be tested on animals, however regulations in China do. Why is this significant? Because US brands attesting to being cruelty free are sold in China, whose laws clearly state that cosmetics must be tested on animals.

Using animals to test cosmetics is a barbaric practice where ingredients are tested on their skin or placed in their ears and eyes. It’s inhumane to say the least, with animals being forced in some instances to ingest the raw ingredients to see if an allergic reaction occurs.

Leaping Bunny Program

The Leaping Bunny Program has provided certifications for over 600 cruelty free brands, providing a place for animal-friendly shopping. The company began in 1996, with eight animal protection groups in the United States, forming the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC). Together they promote a comprehensive standard recognized by the Leaping Bunny Logo.

Leaping bunny provides the only internationally recognized certification that guarantees specific products do not involve animal testing. You can download their smartphone app to determine if the companies you purchase from are in fact cruelty free. You can download it here.

The app is easy to use and has an up-to-date list of all certified companies, including a list of freebies and discounts from companies donating a percentage of their earnings to Leaping Bunny. You can also create customized shopping lists of your favorite companies.

Some Of My Favorite Cruelty Free Companies


Key Points

Buy Vitamin C BannerThere are many shades of grey when it comes to the label “cruelty free.” It may be true that animals were not involved in testing, but then again it may be completely false for the reasons stated above. Even the FDA’s website states there is no legal definition for the label, allowing cosmetic companies to determine their own definition of what it means.

Animal testing is completely unnecessary, considering ingredients derived from animals, could easily be replaced with synthetic or plant-based ingredients. Choose products endorsed by Leaping Bunny to make sure they meet the rigorous standards to be labeled cruelty free. You do have the power of choice in what you will or will not buy.

What are your thoughts on humanely produced cosmetics? Let me know in the comments:)

4 thoughts on “What Does Cruelty Free REALLY Mean?”

  1. That’s an awesome post. It seems like you have a huge concern for animals. Nothing wrong, even I do care about them. There are other places as well where we test on animals: Medical Labs. I have seen body parts of almost all animals torn apart for experimentation purposes

    I agree that testing on animals is a cruel practice. I appreciate your list suggesting your cruelty-free companies.

    Thanks a lot for sharing this interesting as well as useful post.

    • I have a great love for animals and hate the fact that people harm them for profit, including medical labs. It’s very unfortunate and cruel. Thanks for reading!

  2. Oh, so that’s what cruelty free means, thanks Holly for clearing it up for me. I see the label as a good thing because I don’t want to harm animals either just for mankind’s benefit. Now I will start searching for that bunny logo from now on every time I buy a cosmetic product. 

    Sadly though, even if I make the shift to cruelty free products, the fact won’t change that animals will continue to be harmed in some other places in the world. Makes me wanna’ pity those poor creatures who just want to live naturally in their environment. I guess when I eat meat products, I don’t feel sympathy to the animal that was killed. But oh well…

    • Sad, but true, animals will always be harmed somewhere in the world. I wish it didn’t have to be that way. Thanks for taking the time to comment. 


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