What Does Cruelty Free Really Mean?

There are loads of different definitions of cruelty free. There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all answer to this question – a lot of it depends on your personal values. The one thing that everybody agrees on is that we hate animal testing

Some people are happy to purchase from cruelty free brands that are owned by larger companies that aren’t cruelty free, where as others aren’t. Some people think a product has to be either vegan or vegetarian, otherwise they can’t be classed as cruelty free. 

I’ve tried to break it down but, realistically, I’m just scratching the surface of this ridiculously widespread problem. Hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision on what you choose to buy and, more importantly, who from.

What’s the Definition of Cruelty Free?

According to most definitions, it simply means ‘manufactured and developed in using methods which do not involve cruelty to animals’.

Well, that clears things up.

What constitutes cruelty? As a vegetarian, you may say that anything that contains animal products is cruel, but as a vegan you may extend this to animal by-products, too.

What Do I Mean By Cruelty Free?

On this website, not all of the brands I call cruelty free are certified by a body… Sometimes being certified can cost too much money, be too time consuming for small businesses or (in Peta’s case, at least) doesn’t mean a lot anyway.

Before claiming that they’re cruelty free here on the big-wide-web, I make sure that brands:

  1. don’t conduct any animal testing
  2. don’t have any other companies conduct animal testing on their behalf
  3. ensure that their raw ingredients aren’t tested on animals
  4. refuse to sell their products in Mainland China due to their post-market testing policies

I do sometimes use and feature products on here that are by cruelty free or vegan brands that are owned by non-cruelty free or non-vegan parent companies, but I will always try to say so wherever possible. 

Click here for haircare recommendations that are cruelty free!

How Does Peta Define Cruelty Free?

Peta classes cruelty free as companies that “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”.

Although this is a bit more rigid, Peta’s certification doesn’t require any checks or investigations; all they have to do is sign a form. In addition, there have been several instances where Peta have “certified” a brand as cruelty free when we know that they’re not.

What About Cruelty Free International?

Certification by Cruelty Free International is the best way in the UK to be sure a brand doesn’t test on animals. This is because they are the only body that actively audit and spot check their certified cruelty free brands. Their criteria for animal testing is strict, but they don’t include any reference to animal-derived ingredients. This means there’s no way of telling if the brand is vegan or vegetarian.

Cruelty Free International do certify brands that are owned by a parent company that isn’t certified. In their own words, they do this because: “we want animal suffering to end, so we see it part of our mission to spread our message as widely as possible”.

Cruelty Free International ensure that all certified companies are not using animal testing, at any stage of their supply chain.

How Does Choose Cruelty Free Work?

Choose Cruelty Free is an Australian company that falls somewhere between Peta and Cruelty Free International. To be accredited, companies must sign a legally binding contract stating that they have told the truth about their practises. Although they don’t carry out spot-checks like Cruelty Free International, companies do have to go through regular re-accreditation.

Choose Cruelty Free also have restrictions on the ingredients that can be used, they won’t accredit a brand unless their parent company is also accredited and a statement must be received from the manufacturer of any ingredients used by the company.

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