Along with making sure our pets aren’t harmed by chemicals we use around our house and yard, we can also make sure that other animals aren’t harmed by our choices either. We can do this by choosing “cruelty-free” cosmetics, beauty products and household products, but what does this really mean, and how can we find out what products are truly “cruelty-free”?
Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act
Cosmetics and related products are tested on animals for a variety of reasons, often having more to do with legalities than health. Surprisingly enough, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require that a product be tested on animals, only that the manufacturer certify that “cosmetics are safe and properly labeled” through the the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).
“The FD&C Act does not specifically require the use of animals in testing cosmetics for safety, nor does the Act subject cosmetics to FDA premarket approval,” an FDA statement reads, and further adds, “We also believe that prior to use of animals, consideration should be given to the use of scientifically valid alternative methods to whole-animal testing.” Read this statement.
Yet many manufacturers still test their products on animals. Most often the animals used in the testing process are rabbits, or mice, rats, guinea pigs and other rodents, but it’s often been found that homeless cats and dogs end up in testing laboratories as well, often sold to dealers by animal shelters.
Whether or not a product was tested on an animal usually isn’t one of the things included on the label. Unless a manufacturer specifically states the fact that the product is not tested on animals, you really can’t tell by looking. I usually presume that, if a product doesn’t specifically state anything about animal testing that it was tested on animals and I’ll pass it by. If it does have a statement, I’ll investigate further.
Even there the issue isn’t as clear as it could be. The term “clinically-tested” means different things in different countries, but not necessarily that the product wasn’t tested on animals. Sometimes you’ll see a statement that the product in the package was not tested on animals, but won’t be told that the raw ingredients for the product were, or that a closely-related product was or that all through development the product was tested on mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats and dogs. Or that product itself was not tested, but the manufacturer itself heavily uses animal testing for most of what it manufactures.
And the term “cruelty-free” doesn’t mean much of anything because there is no legal definition for the term. It’s like saying something is “organic”, sounding official but defined by the user, or that something is “green” or “environmentally-friendly”. A consumer can complain that it isn’t true, but no legal recourse can be taken.
Look for the Leaping Bunny
The best way to ensure a product was not tested on animals is to investigate the manufacturer’s policies and sourcing of ingredients, but, okay, how do you do that when you’re standing there with a pretty package of eye shadows in your hand? Or does it really matter for just this bar of soap? I surely don’t spend the time investigating these things because the answers are often difficult for the average person to find. Instead I rely on other sources for the information, but even there you need to be careful where the information comes from.
Which is why I’m so glad for “Leaping Bunny”, or “The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics”, an international organization that investigates and certifies manufacturers according to their own standards. Their website lists and promotes companies that manufacture and sell products that they have certified to be “cruelty-free” so that the statement has some meaning.
And the “leaping bunny” itself refers to their official logo which these manufacturers are permitted to add to their packaging so that you can look for it when you shop—just be careful you’ve found the right bunny because I’ve seen some clever imitations.
Better yet, you can look on their website for companies they’ve certified and download their handy cruelty-free shopping guide, or download their new app for mobile devices so that you always have the most updated information.
It’s not easy to give up your favorite hair color (I started using henna years ago), a bath product you love or the foundation that makes your skin look like a teenager’s, but by researching the list you may find products that you like even better, and better yet, you’ll know that your choice has made a difference in hundreds, perhaps thousands of animals’ lives.
NOTE: Usually my posts are image-heavy, but I’ve chosen not to show images of animals engaged in testing—I don’t think most animal lovers need to see those images in order to be convinced of the value of using products that are cruelty-free. I have also not included images of products with the logo because I don’t want to endorse any products. Cute bunnies, mice, rats, guinea pigs, cats and dogs? You probably already have a few you love right there with you, and photos couldn’t be more convincing than that.
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