Can we Trust Cruelty-Free Labels in the UK?

If you look hard enough on the shelves at any makeup counter in the UK, you are bound to come across two cruelty-free logos that appear time and time again. They are those of Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and Cruelty Free International (who pioneer the Leaping Bunny Logo).

Another common logo is Choose Cruelty Free, which is actually an Australian accreditor, but I have seen its’ logo pop up on quite a few products sold in the UK such as Sukin.

But can they be trusted? How much do these logos really tell us about a brand’s stance on animal testing?

Peta’s Cruelty Free Certification

Above, on the left, is Peta’ old cruelty free logo, on the right is their new, updated logo.

There has been a lot of controversy around Peta’s cruelty-free certification recently, mainly to do with their lax rules. As you can see from the following statement on their website, they don’t have any checks or assurances in place that brands are adhering to cruelty-free practises – all they have to do is sign a statement of assurance:

Companies listed either signed PETA’s statement of assurance or provided a statement verifying that they do not conduct or commission any animal tests on ingredients, formulations, or finished products and that they pledge not to do so in the future.

Peta has started certifying brands as cruelty-free, even when they sell in Mainland China (where animal testing is mandatory for most products). They have given vague statements about only selling those products which do not require animal testing, but haven’t given information as to what these are, or what other measures are in place to avoid animal testing (including post-market animal testing, which no products are excluded from).

Peta also certify brands as cruelty-free even when they are owned by parent companies that are not cruelty-free, such as Unilever and Proctor and Gamble. Some people are okay with this, and some aren’t – this is more of a personal decision rather than a black and white right or wrong.

Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny Certification

Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny Logo

Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny Certification is widely regarded as the best certification a brand can get. This is because they have strict criteria for their certification:

To become Leaping Bunny approved, brands must:

– Commit to a thorough examination of their supply chain for animal testing – that means not only their finished products but also the raw materials and ingredients these products are made up of.

– Implement a fixed cut-off date.

– Actively monitor their supply chains on an ongoing basis and maintain up-to-date records to evidence this.

– Agree to ongoing independent audits to ensure their continued compliance with Leaping Bunny criteria.

As you can see, not only do Cruelty Free International have specific, transparent practises on how a brand can demonstrate their cruelty-free status, they also undertake independent audits to ensure they’re really doing what they say they’re doing.

Cruelty Free International also certify brands as cruelty free, even when they are owned by parent companies that cannot be approved. In each case, they helpfully state on their website whether a brand’s parent company has been approved or not.

Until recently, Cruelty Free International had a blanket rule on not certifying brands that sold in Mainland China. This is still the case for brands that do so of their own accord, but they have recently launched a pilot scheme to help their brands sell in China without animal testing. The scheme is well-regulated, and accounts for any possible occurrence of animal testing. Read about it from Cruelty Free International here. Read about it from their partnered regulatory body here.

Choose Cruelty Free’s Licensed Companies List

The Choose Cruelty Free Logo

Like I said above, Choose Cruelty Free are based in Australia and mostly accredit Australian brands. Their logo does appear in the UK here and there, but it’s much less common. Nevertheless, here is their process for accreditation:

1. You and any contract manufacturers will need to complete and submit a Questionnaire & Application form. 

2. You and any contract manufacturers will need to submit written statements from ingredient suppliers stating that ingredients have not been tested on animals ever or at least not within the last 5 years.

3. You and any contract manufacturers will need to provide to a full product list along with ingredients per product to CCF.

4. You will need to pay a one-off $100 administrative fee at the time of lodging your complete application. There is no fee payable by your contract manufacturer.

(It’s worth mentioning here that Peta and Cruelty Free International both charge a fee for their accreditation schemes, too.)

Choose Cruelty Free say that their contracts are ‘legally binding’, but they don’t say how they enforce them. It doesn’t say anywhere on their website that they carry out independent audits like Cruelty Free International, so it relies on the word of the brand and their supplier (as opposed to Peta, who just rely on the word of the brand).

Although they’re more lax than Cruelty Free International in this sense, they are more strict in what they ask for. Firstly, they don’t accredit brands unless their parent company is also cruelty free (whereas Peta and Cruelty Free International do will). They also have requirements on ingredients:

CCF will not accredit a manufacturer if any of its products contain any of the following ingredients:

– Derived from an animal killed specifically for the extraction of that ingredient;

– Forcibly extracted from a live animal in a manner that occasioned pain or discomfort;

– Derived from any wildlife;

– That are by-products of the fur industry; or

– That are slaughterhouse by-products of a commercially significant value (meaning the animal was not killed specifically for the ingredient, but that the ingredient was available due to the animal being killed for other purposes).

As you can see, they don’t currently specifically require a brand to be vegan or vegetarian, but they are minimising cruelty to animals wherever possible.

They also announced last month that they will require their brands to be 100% vegetarian by 2021. They’re eliminating all ‘blood products’, which is the term they have coined to describe products that “may contain an ingredient that is derived from an animal in such a way that results in the death of that animal either directly or indirectly, or is an ingredient obtained from slaughter house by-products“.

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