If your goal is to live sustainably and treat our earth and the animals that inhabit it with kindness and respect then buying cruelty-free products is a great way to start.
But ensuring the legitimacy of “cruelty-free” labels can be murky ground. From ingredients to testing, to reading and understanding cruelty-free labels, it can all be quite confusing.
Since the FDA has no set regulation on what defines a product as cruelty-free, brands can claim they are cruelty-free even if they are not. But, luckily there are a few organizations that offer valid cruelty-free certifications, although we should mention a few that have also had their validity questioned at times.
In this blog will go over all the need-to-know information for you to understand cruelty-free labeling to ensure you are staying true to your commitment to not support companies who harm animals.
So, what exactly does the cruelty-free label mean?
Although there is no legal definition for what defines a product as “cruelty-free”, the generally accepted meaning is that “A product and its ingredients were not tested on animals”.
As mentioned above, since there is also no regulation on these phrases, companies are free to apply them when and as they feel.
For example, a company may not test final products on animals but could still purchase from manufacturers that test on animals will sometimes say they’re cruelty-free.
The best way to ensure a product’s cruelty-free label is legitimate is to look for brands that use specific logos from respected and well-recognized organizations, and are listed in their various databases.
How Does A Company Get Assigned A Cruelty-Free Label?
Companies can either assign themselves this label with no one having validated their claim, or they can do the best option which is to go through a 3rd party organization like PETA, Leaping Bunny, or Choose Cruelty-Free.
Each of these organizations are animal rights advocates, that have standards and a process for evaluating companies for cruelty-free labels. They also have widely recognized logos. However, you should beware of fake logos that very much resemble the main bunny logos but are not them.
Seeing any one of these will be a good indication that a product has been thoroughly vetted. However, it should be noted that not every product that has been certified cruelty-free actually has it labeled on its packaging. That’s because there are extra fees associated with displaying one of these logos so companies can choose to opt-out. But they will usually be listed in the organization's database. Which you can find below:
The 3 Major Cruelty-Free Vetting Organizations
Source: Leaping Bunny
Leaping Bunny is favored as the standard for certifying brands. The organization is made up of the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics(CCIC) and 8 national animal protection groups which govern the standards for Leaping Bunny certifications.
It is their goal to push back against companies creating their own definition of cruelty-free without participation from animal rights groups.
To receive certification from them, the brand can not test on animals and cannot sell in China, or any country which allows animal testing. Leaping Bunny confirms these claims through strict supplier monitoring systems which require companies to show proof that their suppliers comply with their standards. In addition, the certified brands must recommit annually, which means the brands are reviewed yearly for compliance.
Choose Cruelty-Free (CCF) & Cruelty Free International
Source: Cruelty Free International
Then there is Choose Cruelty-Free (CCF). CCF is an Australian-based non-profit organization that is against animal testing. In 2021 Choose Cruelty-Free merged with Cruelty Free International, a leading global organization working to end animal experiments worldwide. They united to combine strength and support in an effort to offer consumers in Australia the option to make ethical choices by approving more brands committed to ending animal testing. Cruelty Free International works specifically with non-US and Canadian companies to assist with getting them Leaping Bunny certified.
They offer the same certification standards except for allowing brands to sell in mainland China. But they are working on getting into that market to. Back in 2018, Cruelty-Free International launched its Leaping Bunny China Pilot Program, which helps Leaping Bunny-approved brands to enter the Chinese market without having to test perform animal tests. They have been working closely with the government to ensure these methods of testing are eliminated. They are pushing to make changes in regulations that will open doors for more consumers to have access to cruelty-free labeled products globally. Every step counts in this effort!
Now for PETA, you might think, “This is definitely a trustworthy organization to verify animal testing”. Well, guess again! PETA’s cruelty-free accreditation is considered lesser by many animal rights advocates. PETA does not conduct routine audits to secure compliance, they don't require documentation from suppliers and the legitimacy of PETA’s standards depends on the honesty and accuracy of written statements made by the brand.
Plus, there are PETA-certified brands that sell in China and other countries with lax animal testing regulations. They place their bets on the fact that post-market animal testing in China is currently not highly likely. Thus, that’s why PETA believes it's fine to certify them as cruelty-free. So you might need to look into PETA-approved cruelty-free labels a bit more before you take that leap of faith with your money.
It is important that we as consumers are mindful about purchasing products that cause harm to ourselves and our eco-system. By removing cruelty-free products from your home you move towards a more sustainable lifestyle that helps animals and improves your health. Cruelty-Free products are generally healthier, as they typically don't use chemicals like parabens, sulfates, and synthetic dyes. Meaning, better skin, better healthy, and less harm to animals. The best of all worlds.
Now that you are equipped with a better understanding of cruelty-free labels you can make knowledgeable decisions about the brands you use and support.