I’ve noticed that a major misconception in the beauty community is that a vegan product and a cruelty-free product are the same thing. They’re not. Of course, they could be depending on how you define “cruelty-free” but most often the term is not synonymous with vegan.
There are many debates from various groups on the definitions of vegan and cruelty-free, and the information provided below is based on my understanding and use of the words. You are most welcome to have your own definitions but it’s important to understand what companies mean when they claim their products to be vegan or cruelty-free.
According to wikipedia, “is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as following an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals. A follower of veganism is known as a vegan.” (source)
For cosmetics to be considered vegan they must not contain any animal products, such as beeswax or carmine. Often companies will claim that the animal products that they use, such as beeswax or animal fur for makeup brushes, do not harm the animal. Regardless these would not be considered vegan as the principal of veganism goes beyond not harming animals and includes not exploiting animals for humans, which includes using byproducts of animals such as dairy, honey and beeswax.
In the cosmetic industry, the term cruelty-free indicates that the product has not being tested on animals. Many times companies will claim that their products are cruelty-free because they do not test their final products on animals, but they will still test their unfinished products and ingredients on animals.
Other times companies will not test on products themselves or hire others to do so on their behalf, but they will purchase ingredients from third parties without the guarantee that they have not tested on animals.
For cruelty-free enthusiasts, cruelty-free means that the product has not been tested at any point. The Leaping Bunny list is the most effective way to ensure that a product is truly cruelty-free because they conduct a complete audit of the company, including the sources of their ingredients, to ensure that there has been no animal testing conducted at any point during the product’s production.
PETA’s list isn’t as dependable because they only request that companies sign a pledge that they don’t test on animals. This doesn’t stop companies from trying to quietly enter into the Chinese market (that has a mandatory animal testing policy) in an attempt to keep their PETA status.
Additionally, a company might be cruelty-free but owned by a company that is not cruelty-free. For example, Urban Decay does not conduct any animal testing and is certified by Leaping Bunny, but they are owned by L’Oreal who is notorious for animal testing. This comes down to personal preference on whether you are okay with purchasing cruelty-free products that profit companies who also produce non-cruelty-free products.
VEGAN vs. CRUELTY-FREE
It basically comes down to this. A product can be cruelty-free (not tested on animals) but not vegan (contain animal products/byproducts). Or a product can be vegan (no animal products/byproducts) but not be cruelty-free (tested on animals). Or a product can be both vegan (no animal products/byproducts) and cruelty-free (not tested on animals).