Is it really cruelty-free?

The cruelty-free stance, taken by an increasing number of people, can be really confusing. For such a seemingly straightforward, no-cruelty-allowed-here message, most people are still wondering what it really means.

The terminology is vast. Cruelty-free, vegan, natural. All sound positive, yet too often these statements are meant to confuse and make people buy into the idea that consuming certain products = activism.

Let’s cover some bases. Cruelty-free, at the moment of writing, means no animal testing takes place in the making of a product. If a product is described as vegan, it usually means that no animal testing took place and no ingredients of animal-nature are present. In terms of natural, well, that tends to mean whatever you want it to.

The cognitive dissonance between the branding of cruelty-free products while simultaneously using animal derivatives appears to elude most consumers, even those who are concerned about the horrible outcomes of animal testing. But can you blame them? Since there are no requirements that demand products marked with a cruelty-free logo must adhere to certain legal guidelines, a lot of companies take matters in their own hands. And since the only somewhat-haze-free area of cosmetics is what vegan means (no beeswax, no crushed insects, etc), the companies are benefitting from the cruelty-free movement by doing nothing to change it.

L’Oréal does not test any of its products or any of its ingredients on animals and has been at the forefront of alternative methods for over 30 years.

Do any of the “alternative methods” help, if large companies such as L’Oreal still sell their products in China, where testing is required for certain products?

It is increasingly more difficult to explain reasonably the expansion into markets where animal testing is required. Recently, Nars have come under fire for making the decision to start selling their products in the Chinese market, effectively losing their cruelty-free certification (its parent company Shiseido, like L’Oreal, is also present in China). In one of the biggest U-turns seen by the industry, Nars changed their mind days after online campaigns flooded social media pleading the company to reevaluate. After all, no company wants their brand equity associated with greed, even when the Asian market alone accounts for approximately 40% of the global market. Corporate responsibility and ethical capital are direct consequences of people demanding to know what they pay for and refusing to support cruelty for profit.

The cruelty-free activism is why a lot of branding and marketing of new products includes these buzzwords. Are they really cruelty-free though? Is the use of animal products in cosmetics – beeswax, carmine, animal fats – justifiable? It is no longer up to large corporations to decide.



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