Animal testing casts a dark shadow across many of the products that we buy.
In fact, it’s estimated that over 192 million animals were used for the purpose of testing products in one year alone . If animal testing was simply a matter of giving a bunny a pedicure to see how long nail polish lasted, it might be considered acceptable to some. However, this isn’t how animal testing works.
To put it simply, animal testing is the use of non-human animals in experiments and scientific tests. It’s different from bringing a cat or dog to the vet as experiments are done against the animal’s will, can cause deliberate harm, are not for the animal’s own good and frequently result in death for the animal. These tests are likely to cause pain, suffering, distress, or lasting harm.
With this in mind, it’s probably fair to say that few of us are prepared to put our appearance above the wellbeing of other living creatures.
Animal rights campaigners around the world have worked hard to bring public attention to the use of animal testing. And their efforts have paid off. Many countries, including EU countries, the UK, India, and Australia have legislation banning products that have been tested on animals. The beauty industry, in particular, has seen a huge uptick in demand for products that are free from animal testing, commonly known as ‘cruelty-free’.
There’s still much work to do, however. Product testing on animals remain legal in many countries, including the USA. And some countries, such as China, actively require animal testing before products can be sold in local shops.
In this article, we’ll look at animal testing in more detail, discuss why campaigners want to see the practice banned for good, and cover how we can ensure the products we buy are cruelty-free.
Why test on animals?
Animal testing has long been the prevalent practice in testing products for safety which means that many ingredients and products have been, and continue to be tested on animals. Pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and household products are commonly tested on animals. As technology has advanced, this has become an outdated and often unnecessarily cruel method of establishing the safety of a product.
Proponents of animal testing argue that the tests are necessary for human safety, however, this is no longer the case. As technology continues to develop, there are many alternatives to animal testing to ensure that ingredients are safe. Some methods include in-vitro testing , tissue engineering , and computer modelling . Also, since companies have been conducting animal tests for decades the scientific community has access to a list of over 7,000 ingredients that are already proven to be safe. Innovating new ingredients, instead of using ones that are already proven to be safe, is in no way necessary.
Another major driver for brands to continue to test their products on animals is China, which has the second-biggest economy in the world and the largest population, but requires products to be tested on animals before they can be sold domestically. The rules are beginning to relax, but current Chinese laws mean that brands who sell their cosmetics in China may still have to test on animals.
What does cruelty-free mean?
Currently, there’s no official definition for the term ‘cruelty-free’, therefore we use the broadest definition of the term. To be considered cruelty-free, a brand does not:
- Test any of their finished products on animals at any point during production
- Use suppliers that test raw materials, ingredients, or products on non-human animals
- Have a third-party test any products on animals on their behalf
- Sell any products in a country where animal testing is required by law (e.g. mainland China)
Therefore, cruelty-free products are those which have been sourced, developed, and manufactured without any experimentation or testing on animals. There’s a bit of a grey area when it comes to brands with parent companies that aren’t cruelty-free. Ultimately, it’s up to the discretion of the buyer to determine whether this is acceptable or not.
📣 B*S alert: Sometimes the term ‘cruelty-free’ is used synonymously with ‘vegan’, however a vegan product is not necessarily cruelty-free (although it can be), and a cruelty-free product isn’t necessarily vegan. Also, vegan and cruelty-free can sometimes be conflated with terms like ‘natural’ and ‘organic’. Again, these don’t mean the same thing.
Why does cruelty-free matter?
Without a doubt, choosing cruelty-free products is better for animals. By supporting brands that are adhering to cruelty-free manufacturing processes you are ensuring that the products you use have been developed with regard to the welfare and rights of animals.
According to law, some animals are legally protected from cruelty while others are not. This means that animals classified as laboratory animals are deprived of the same rights as pets. While there is legislation to protect companion animals against cruelty, laboratory animals (including those species that we live with as pets, such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and mice) do not have any legal protection from cruel or inhumane treatment.
Rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and mice are primarily used for cosmetics tests. Animals used in experiments are often bred in labs or breeding facilities specifically to be tested on, which deprives them of their right to live and experience a natural life. Most testing causes unnecessary pain and suffering, while the end result for the animals being experimented on is often death.
With other options available, animal testing is simply not necessary to confirm the safety of cosmetics or personal care products.
How to go cruelty-free
Going cruelty-free is simple: don’t buy products from brands that test on animals.
🎯 Wondering where to start? You can find a wide range of cruelty-free products in our store, as well as a list of brands that prioritise animal welfare.
In countries that ban animal testing, including the UK and the EU, individual products sold in these countries should be cruelty-free. However, this restriction only applies to products sold in those countries. Since many beauty companies sell their products globally, there’s no guarantee that your favorite brands are truly cruelty-free.
In countries that don’t outright ban testing, like the USA, labelling schemes can be useful in identifying products and brands that are confirmed to be cruelty-free.
- Leaping Bunny: The Leaping Bunny logo is a familiar sight to many. It’s provided by Cruelty Free International. Companies who sign up to this scheme and commit to creating their products without any animal testing. This includes the testing of both final products and raw materials. They also can’t get third parties to test on their behalf. The Leaping Bunny scheme is awarded to companies, not products. So, the entire product range must be cruelty-free to qualify. They also carry out independent audits of the companies that carry the label.
- Beauty without Bunnies: Animal rights campaigners, PETA, are behind this label, which certifies companies who don’t use animal testing on their products or their ingredients, anywhere in the world. Like the Leaping Bunny label, Beauty without Bunnies covers the company, not the product. Companies using the Beauty without Bunnies label do so under an honor system as PETA does not carry out audits to ensure compliance.
- Not Tested on Animals: Australian based Choose Cruelty-Free are behind this label, which also features a bunny. Their criteria includes a requirement for brands to have stopped animal testing five years before applying. It covers both the ingredients and the final product and cosmetics can’t be sold in markets that require animal testing, such as China. Although products don’t have to be vegan, they must ensure that no animals were killed or unnecessarily harmed just to provide ingredients for the cosmetics.
These labelling schemes can help to identify brands that have made a real commitment to being cruelty-free. But just because a product doesn’t carry one of these labels, does not mean that they have been tested on animals. Smaller brands don’t always have the means to meet the costs of certification. And if they sell mainly in countries where animal testing is banned, they might not consider it necessary to become accredited.
If a brand you love doesn’t carry one of these labels, don’t give up on them just yet. You may have to do a bit more research, but you should be able to check where they sell their products. If they only sell in countries where animal testing is banned, you are pretty safe. They also may have information available on their website.
If they sell to other markets, but not China, you can always reach out to them for more information on how they test the safety of their products.
And if you find that one of your favourite brands does still test on animals, write to tell them that you’d like to see these practices stop before you’re prepared to shop with them again. The more of us who push for change, the more likely it is that brands will listen.