Now that the Zero Waste Kitchen Series has reached some semblance of completion I thought I’d focus on looking at how we can reduce causing harm to animals, namely by talking about using vegan, cruelty free products.
All of us, each and every one of us, is complicit in some way or the other in animal cruelty. We use numerous products that are either directly derived from animal parts, or have come into existence through being tested on laboratory animals. Helpless and innocent though they clearly are, we have not paused in our sheer annihilation of all sorts of animal populations. Truth be told, animals being tortured for our benefit (or even just out of sheer cruelty) is one of humanity’s worst crimes.
Animal Testing for Personal Care Products
I am not going to link to sites that show evidence of the terrible treatment of animals in laboratories – you can Google them if you need to see that. But if you’re inclined to support ending such treatment – for no reason other than that it’s wrong – you can make a beginning by yourself, in your own life. How we spend our money sends a powerful message in our world, and supporting ethically produced goods is one way that we can make our voices heard. After all, we all use shampoo and soap, and we all clean our teeth (basic assumption here, though I may be wrong!), so when we look to buy the next round of these personal care products, we should choose wisely.
Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom. Societies and consumers (and yes, even governments) are waking up to the realities of animal experimentation. One of the positive things happened in India, for example, where there was the initial ban on all animal testing for cosmetics in 2013, followed by the ban on import of animal-tested beauty products in 2014. More recently, in 2016, the Indian government banned animal testing in soaps and detergents. If that’s not a positive evolution, then what is!
Let’s all keep the momentum going by supporting vegan, cruelty-free products as much as possible.
What is cruelty-free?
Broadly speaking, ‘cruelty-free’ refers to whether or not the product has been tested on animals. Most cosmetics and personal care products currently are tested on lab animals – for efficacy and safety. This is very well known. But, thanks to growing awareness regarding the treatment of lab animals, and the fact that such testing is unnecessary – and, above all, unethical – consumers are becoming more particular about what they buy and from where. This is a good thing! There are some aspects we need to be careful about, but for the most part, cruelty-free products should become more and more popular!
What should we be careful about? Well, the ‘cruelty-free’ labelling isn’t formal or official – in the sense that it isn’t monitored by an authority or a government agency.
Today, a ‘cruelty-free’ label could mean one or more of the following:
- Neither the product nor the ingredients have been tested on animals
- The ingredients have been tested on animals; the final product has not
- The manufacturer did not conduct animal tests, but their supplier did
- The testing was done in another country
And the curious (to me) point…
- The product or the ingredients have not been tested on animals in the last five, 10, or 20 years
Think About It
As I read through these, I realised it’s all very loosely defined. Consider, for example, a bottle of ‘cruelty-free’ shampoo bought from The Body Shop (the first company to be certified with the Leaping Bunny logo in 1997). At what point can you claim that it’s ‘cruelty-free’? Have the actual contents of that particular bottle been tested on animals? Of course they haven’t. But most commercial products can claim this. After all, it’s only the initial set of samples that generally get tested, not every subsequent commercial sample produced in the factory.
But what if The Body Shop used the shampoo formula from another company that had tested that formula on lab animals? According to the current loose description of ‘cruelty-free’, this absolves The Body Shop of any wrongdoing vis-à-vis animal cruelty.
Let’s consider some scenarios. Is it okay to use the intellectual property or data of a formula that was extensively tested on animals 25 years ago? What about fifteen years ago? Three years ago?
Is it okay to use a ‘cruelty-free’ product that has been produced by a company that routinely tests on animals for its other non-‘cruelty-free’ products? (*cough* L’Oréal *cough*)
What are the actual details of animal testing? Is it okay if only one animal was experimented on, as opposed to 500? What about the animal itself? Is it okay if the experiment was carried out on cockroaches, and not mice? Or, on mice but not rabbits? Human beings do have this hierarchy of intelligence and sentience, after all (which conveniently places us at the very top, ahem).
Where does one draw the line?
Spoiler alert: I don’t have the answers. But I believe that, on a more practical level, it’s more important to save animals now, than to worry about animals who are already dead. Ethically, it is wrong, of course, to benefit from any level of animal abuse, done at any point in time. But, within the ‘cruelty-free’ labelling, ultimately it is up to each individual to decide where to draw the finer line. For me, I currently use a vegan, cruelty-free shampoo that unfortunately comes in a plastic bottle. I wish it were not plastic – who knows how many animals this plastic will go on to kill. But it’s a stepping stone for me to reach a point where I can make all of my own personal care products, from base ingredients that are organic. And it’s a helluva lot better than using a commercial, mass-produced toxic chemical shampoo that not only kills animals and destroys ecosystems, but very nearly destroyed my hair as well!
What about the Leaping Bunny Program?
The Leaping Bunny Program is a comprehensive standard for cruelty-free labelling. What the Program states is that neither the ingredients nor the products have been tested on animals after a certification date and will not be tested on animals in the future. Licensees sign a pledge stating they will not test on animals during any stage of product development, and their suppliers must also state that the supplies (or ingredients) are completely free from any sort of animal testing. The Leaping Bunny Program, which is run by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), conduct surprise audits to ensure the licensees’ and suppliers’ claims are accurate.
The other side of the Leaping Bunny Program’s focus is on educating consumers and having them pledge to purchase cruelty-free products. This is where we, as consumers, can make a difference. By having more consumers supporting cruelty-free products, the onus is on the producers/manufacturers to produce such products. Demand and supply, and all that.
Here’s their Guide, for a list of companies that adhere to the Leaping Bunny Program.
Is vegan = cruelty-free?
In short, no. Not necessarily. This, again, is because of all the nebulous labelling and the criteria behind said labelling. While as a vegan you believe that a product containing dairy inherently involves cruelty, and is therefore not “cruelty-free”, the common labelling practice does not follow that logic. One can be a meat-eater and still use “cruelty-free” products, as paradoxical as that is, simply because the products has not been tested on animals in a lab.
So, if you’re looking for a product that hasn’t harmed any animal, go for vegan and ‘cruelty-free’.
My (still evolving) Vegan, Cruelty-Free Choices
I’ve been using cruelty-free vegan personal care products for several months now. Not only have my skin and hair improved, but I actually feel healthier – although I suppose that could be just my imagination!
Affiliate links, ahoy! (If you buy through these links, I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!)
For my hair:
For my body:
Truly Organic Skin Therapy Organic Body Wash
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap
For my teeth:
Eco-Dent Daily Care Baking Soda Toothpowder
For moisturizing my skin, I use coconut oil (organic). For conditioning my hair, I use plain organic coconut oil or a homemade mix of almond oil, castor oil and coconut oil.
Work in progress:
The only item I’m yet to transition is my deodorant. I still (shamefully) use a commercial deo, and although I have tried making my own deodorant at home, it hasn’t yet worked out to my satisfaction. Meanwhile, I’m loathe to smell funky, so I do use deo every day and perfume once in a while to function in (so-called) civilized society.
Two vegan, cruelty-free brands you can check out (affiliate links):
What about make-up? I’m planning for a separate post on that (this is long enough already), so I’ll cover it there:)
Hope this was helpful! If there are any questions, do comment below.
If you’d like a checklist to help you decide on whether or not you should buy a product, click on the image below to download How to be a Conscious Consumer:
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