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What Are Cruelty-Free Products Tested On?

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Like many environmentalists, you probably do your best to live a conscious lifestyle. You eat plant-based as much as possible, throw food scraps in the compost, and opt for products provided in sustainable packaging. But even despite all of these conscious, sustainable, and (often) vegan efforts, things aren’t always what they seem. Take labels like “organic” and “cruelty-free” for example — these buzzwords are coveted by many shoppers, but the truth is these labels are unregulated by the government. Meaning, you might not be getting what you think you’re getting, despite the messaging.

“Cruelty-free” is a popular claim that often finds its way on clothing, skincare products, makeup products, and other cosmetics and beauty-related items. An item that doesn’t say “cruelty-free” might be substituted with “not tested on animals.” But if both of these labels are not regulated, what do “cruelty-free” and “not tested on animals” really, truly mean?

What Are Cruelty-Free Products?

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Cruelty-free products claim to not harm animals. Since testing cosmetics on animals can cause harm or even kill the animals, products that practice animal testing are not cruelty-free. The phrase came about in the 1950s as part as the animal rights movement. By the 1970s, it was a household term.

Despite these labels being popular or coveted, millions of animals are killed each year when animal testing goes awry. According to an article published in Santa Clara University, about 20 million animals are experimented on and killed annually, three-fourths for medical purposes and the rest to test various products. It’s also estimated that eight million are used in experiments that cause pain to the animals and about 10 percent of these creatures are not given painkillers as part of the process.