Cruelty-Free Living

Photo of a hand holding a makeup brush up to the side of a rabbit's face
Source: iStock

Ordering a $25 lip oil for “self-care reasons” is pleasurable, but did a shaking lab rabbit suffer for your brief moment of joy?

Embarking on an animal-loving product journey can be intimidating, especially considering cruelty-free living expands beyond the cosmetics realm. Your trusty laundry detergent and toothpaste are possibly still being tested on furry friends.

We at Green Matters here to educate you on the basics and provide cruelty-free product and brand guides as well as deep dives on the brutal animal testing industry. No guinea pig, mouse, rat, or bunny should suffer for so-called beauty.

What is cruelty-free living?

Generally (there's no legal definition), cruelty-free living excludes any involvement with animal exploitation, experimentation, or harm. An all-around vegan lifestyle, which eliminates all animal byproducts, is the purest form of cruelty-free living.

When we talk about cruelty-free consumerism, beauty products free of animal testing come to mind, as do organizations like Leaping Bunny, PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies, and Choose Cruelty Free, which grant brands with recognizable certifications.

Companies that utilize animal-derived ingredients can still be considered "cruelty-free," however. Burt's Bees is a perfect example of this. None of the company's products or ingredients are tested on animals by any party during any point in production. But Burt's Bees is not vegan-friendly, as the personal care brand was built on the inclusion of beeswax.

What does the history of cruelty-free living look like?

Cruelty-Free International was once British Union in Bristol circa 1898, as per Dolma Perfumes. Women’s suffrage campaigner Frances Power Cobbe began the organization after witnessing the cruel treatment of animals across Europe. Today, she is celebrated as a pioneer of the anti-vivisection movement.

According to Leaping Bunny, which is operated by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, cruelty-free shopping really took off in the mid-90s, but these “animal friendly” products were cryptic about their cruelty-free definitions. The FDA warned that companies may label their finished products as “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals,” despite turning to raw material suppliers or laboratories to conduct animal testing.

Decades later, cruelty-free living is more concrete, especially with the help of the aforementioned strict third-party accreditations (be aware of fake bunny logos).

Cruelty-free living is admittedly easier today, as many raw materials were tested on animals long ago and are now deemed safe for human consumption and/or application. As mentioned by the FDA, claims that certain ingredients or products are "not currently tested on animals" are common.

Purchasing entirely cruelty-free products can be confusing.

Quickly researching the ethics of a company often leads to a strategically worded statement: "We ourselves do not test on animals nor do we ask others to conduct animal testing for us. If obligated by law or regulatory bodies for reasons of safety, however, limited exceptions may apply."

This particular statement comes from Laneige. Unfortunately, a speedy internet search may imply a brand is cruelty-free, even when the exact opposite is the truth. Many companies choose to sell in cosmetics money-spinner mainland China. Though positive changes are on the rise, the Chinese government is notorious for requiring animal testing on cosmetics products sold in the country. According to The Humane Society of the United States, "many non-animal test methods are not yet accepted by Chinese regulators."

Another dilemma comes in the form of parent companies. Cruelty-free brand Burt's Bees is owned by The Clorox Company, which does engage in animal testing.

If you're unsure if a company falls under the cruelty-free umbrella, the Cruelty-Free Kitty and Ethical Elephant blogs — both of which operate meticulous databases of cruelty-free and vegan brands — are excellent additional resources.

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