I know there are many terms that get thrown around in the cruelty free community that might be slightly ambiguous and confusing. My mother recently went cruelty free and vegan as well, and I noticed some of the issues she was having with terms assuming one thing actually meant another. So today I’m putting together a little Cruelty Free vocabulary lesson to go over some basic terms.
Cruelty free only refers to the testing of products on animals (anything from rats to monkeys and dogs) usually through vivisection. Because there is no way for consumers to learn if a specific product (say your mascara or dish soap) has been tested on animals, this term usually applies to an entire brand or company.
What qualifies as cruelty free is different to many people. For me, a company should not animal test ingredients or finished products, not contract another company to do this for them, not stipulate “unless required by law,” or sell in China or any other country which requires animal testing of all beauty products. To some people, a product is cruelty free as long as there is no animal testing of the finished product. Cruelty free does not mean vegan, natural, or anything else although it may also be these things.
Vegan products contain no animal products (ex. bone or sinew) or byproducts (ex. milk or other secretions) as ingredients. There are many ingredients that can come from both animals and vegan sources so double check with a company to see which theirs is if they have not specified on the ingredient list. Some items are considered vegan even though they contain insect ingredients. Some people consider these vegan, and others (like myself) do not.
There are many 100% vegan companies that are also cruelty free, and many cruelty free brands will provide you with a list of vegan products even though they aren’t completely vegan.
Parent Company & Subsidiary
A subsidiary is a company owned by another company (ex. Burt’s Bees is owned by Clorox). A parent company is the company that owns the other (Clorox). I avoid purchasing from brands like Burt’s Bees because their profits really go straight to Clorox, the parent company, who do animal testing.
Some people do not mind purchasing these brands and consider them cruelty free. On the Leaping Bunny list, subsidiaries owned by an animal testing parent company are marked. For more information, check out my previous post on the subject here.
Leaping Bunny List
TheLeaping Bunny List is a list of cruelty free brands put together by the CICC. It is free for a company to get on the list, but there is a fee to put the Leaping Bunny symbol (not all rabbit symbols are from LP) on products. These companies must not animal test ingredients or finished products or have a third party do so on their behalf. These companies must also not sell in China or any other country which requires animal testing.
Unlike many other lists, the company’s claims are verified by a third party audit. Companies can be and are routinely taken off the list if they do not continue to meet these standards. For more information, check out my previous post on the subject here.
PETA’s “Don’t Test” List
This list is compiled by PETA with companies which signed their “statement of assurance.” These companies must not animal test ingredients or finished products or have a third party do so on their behalf. These companies must also not sell in China or any other country which requires animal testing.
PETA does not verify the company claims and has had questionable companies in the past that eventually lost their cruelty free status. It is free for a company to get on the list, but there is a fee to put the PETA bunny symbol on products. Although this would not be my only or first source for information, they do have a plethora of companies listed and have begun labeling vegan companies.
The Vegan Society
TheVegan Society Trademark is truly the gold standard for people looking for products where absolutely no animals were harmed whether through animal testing, harvesting for ingredients, or previous testing.
To get on this list a product must not contain animal or insect products or byproducts, not have ingredients or finished product tested by the company or a third party, and contain no animal derived GMOs. They do verify these claims. This list appears to go by product rather than company.
[EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that The Vegan Society does certify products that are sold in China.]
I hope this crash course was helpful. These seemed to be the main terms thrown about, but there are obviously more concepts, labels, and groups out there. Please feel free to comment if you have any questions or would like to clarify anything above.