Standing in the middle of Sephora, I can already feel the walls closing in on me as I try to figure out which products are still cruelty free, are cruelty free, or never were cruelty free. Asking an associate doesn’t help; her ultra shaped brows jump in confusion when I ask if she can show me a cruelty free foundation. “I think this one is…” but her less than of confident answer gets me wondering, does anyone really know what cruelty free is, and what brands qualify?
Cruelty free, by definition, means no animal testing at any point in production, down to the supplier (raw material) level, and no 3rd party testing. So why have some companies lost their cruelty free status?
Many previously cruelty free cosmetics lines have recently lost their cruelty free status because they have chosen to sell in Mainland China; to put it simply, they want to expand their business into this mega –economy which translates into dollars for them. This is where 3rd party testing comes into play; if a foreign company wants to sell in the Chinese market, they are agreeing to animal testing that is required there by law. The Chinese law applies to all foreign cosmetics companies; anything manufactured in China is now exempt from testing as of 2014, but testing there still hasn’t been banned.
To complicate things, only products that are sold in Mainland China and not in Hong Kong or are only sold online are subject to animal testing. Here are very brief summaries of the three legitimate bunnies indicating cruelty free products. Let’s go down this cruelty free rabbit hole together – pun intended!
The Leaping Bunny – Cruelty Free International
Leaping Bunny managed by Cruelty Free International, a non-profit organization is internationally recognized. Leaping Bunny is considered to be the cosmetics industry “gold standard” cruelty free certification. Currently, over 600 companies are Leaping Bunny Certified, yet less than half of those certified have the Leaping Bunny logo on their packaged product. Here’s why: A company must pay an annual fee to obtain their Leaping Bunny certification, plus, they must pay an additional fee on top of the certification fee in order to have the logo on their products. For some very small companies, this cost could be out of reach, so they may not have the Leaping Bunny symbol, but could very well be Leaping Bunny certified.
The most important aspect of this certification is that there is follow up from Leaping Bunny; which means complete accountability and oversight. A company must allow continued independent auditing to occur, and also monitor its suppliers. This means, for instance, if a cosmetics company purchases shea butter to use in their final product from company X, they must be able to ensure that company X is harvesting, processing and testing their shea in a cruelty free manner.
If you want to check out a company’s cruelty free claim, head over to the Leaping Bunny database so you can search for the brands you want to check quickly and easily, or download their app.
Choose Cruelty Free - CCF Licensees (CCF Rabbit Logo) Australia
Choose Cruelty Free (CCF) is an Australian based program that is run as a not-for-profit organization as well, with extremely stringent criteria for accreditation. Their logo is seen less frequently in North America, but their program is excellent.
They stipulate that all suppliers as well as the company itself must be engaged in cruelty free activities, including parent companies. CCF will not accredit companies unless all parent and subsidiaries are also accredited. For example, Urban Decay is cruelty free, but being owned by parent company L’Oreal which is not cruelty free, would exclude them from the CCF list.
CCF will not allow certification of any products that contain animal derived ingredients that were harvested from an animal killed for the harvesting of the ingredient, caused an animal pain in the ingredient extraction, or contain ingredients that have been tested on animals.
You can check out CCF certified companies here.
PETA – Beauty Without Bunnies Program
US based PETA – Beauty Without Bunnies Program is probably the second most recognized symbol for cruelty free, especially in North America.
Unlike Leaping Bunny, there is only a one-time licensing fee to use the PETA logo. In order to receive PETA certification, a company has to “sign PETA’s statement of assurance or submit a statement verifying that neither they nor their ingredient suppliers conduct, commission, or pay for any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations, or finished products.”
The biggest and most disturbing difference between Leaping Bunny and PETA is that there is absolutely no audit or follow up by PETA to verify a company’s cruelty free claims.
This is kind of like me telling you I have a Unicorn in my backyard, yet I won’t let you come and see it, and I have no proof of the existence of my Unicorn, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
The Fake Bunny
If you see a bunny on a product that does not belong to Leaping Bunny, CCF or PETA, the symbol is not a registered cruelty free symbol. Companies use this as a marketing tactic to dupe you into thinking that their products are cruelty free, when in fact, they most likely are not.
If the packaging displays one of the above mentioned logos, but you can’t find the company in the organization’s database, it’s being used illegally. Here’s the caveat though; a company can be cruelty-free even without displaying any logo or their own logo. One example of this would be Lush; they have their own symbol on their packaging, but they are in fact PETA certified, but aren’t using the PETA bunny symbol.
It always pays to do your homework before hitting the store so you know ahead of time what brands to look for. I hope this article gives you some guidance to begin or continue your cruelty free journey!
Peace, Love, and Lipstick,