Why are cruelty-free products important? What makes a product cruelty free? How can you tell which products are which? These are just a few of the multitude of important questions you likely ask yourself when deciding where and how to spend money on products. Don’t worry. They’re good questions! You will become more and more comfortable answering them by learning a few important key details.
For a product to fall within the vegan/cruelty-free category, it must meet 2 important criteria:
1. It must contain no animal-derived ingredients whatsoever. This includes everything that comes from an animal or is part of an animal. There are thousands of ingredients that are not cruelty free, but here are a few examples: sodium tallowate, which is used in many soaps and comes from the fat of animal tissue, and gelatin, which is made of collagen extracted from animal bones and hooves. You will even often find dairy ingredients in cosmetics products like lotions. This includes cow’s milk as well as goat’s milk. Sometimes they call it “whey” instead, but that is also a dairy product. These ingredients provide no actual benefit. Many of them are actually actively bad for your skin! They are only used because they are cheap to procure and have been used for decades without much thought. These and other ingredients are found in a wide variety of products, from cosmetics to household cleaners, and are often used despite higher-quality plant-based alternatives being widely available for manufacture. Plants, on the other hand, have a million benefits for your body! You can find our longer and more exhaustive list of animal products to avoid here.
2. Neither the product itself nor any of the ingredients in it can have been tested on animals. In an unfortunate irony, some products that do not contain animal ingredients may still be tested on live animal subjects. This is often true of synthesized chemicals, for example. There is a common misconception that animal testing is required by governmental agencies, but that is not true. In the United States, there is no federal requirement for animal testing, and there are many healthier, safer, and kinder ways to prove ingredients are safe for human use. See our article on chemicals for further discussion of this.
Because animal ingredients are not strictly regulated, you cannot necessarily rely on product warning labels as gospel. It is thus important to educate yourself on their impacts to your health, to the earth, and to animals. One easy first step is to look for the Leaping Bunny icon! Check out the Leaping Bunny standard here: https://www.leapingbunny.org/about/the-standard. Leaping Bunny verifies that companies are not testing on animals or using animal products in their products without your knowledge, which is a surprisingly common occurrence. If a company has the Leaping Bunny logo, it means it is safe to use and hasn’t hurt any animals in its production. The one small downside is that many smaller companies have not gotten around to being Leaping Bunny certified yet. But don’t worry. If you’re buying from a small company, it is significantly less likely that they would be testing on animals in the first place. The best policy is to ask directly, though! Paying close attention to whether or not your products are cruelty free provides major benefits for you and your family, and it does a lot to help the animals! It can feel great to make changes in the world with your choices and pocketbook, and this is just the beginning!