What Does Cruelty Free Really Mean?

Hey all, yet another cruelty free list has come out. Makeup brands seem to jump around on these lists often. It was posted in the makeup group I’m in on Facebook and a slightly heated debate arose from the list about what really makes a brand cruelty free.

There seems to be a few schools of thought on this:

  1. The brand does not test on animals in any market and isn’t owned by a company that tests either.
  2. The brand does not test on animals in any market but the parent company does test on animals.
  3. The brand does not test on animals except where required by law.

Let’s discuss each of these thoughts.

With #1, the brand is 100% cruelty free. This is something that we should be striving for in this day and age of course. Many brands fall under this category – ELF, ColourPop, and WetNWild are my favorites from this list. It also includes some amazing high end brands like Anastasia Beverly Hills and theBalm.

Many of these brands are considered “indie” brands because they are independently owned, not part of some huge parent brand. The rest of these brands are owed by a parent company that is also cruelty free. These companies don’t sell their products in markets where testing is required, losing a lot of revenue because of their morals.

I respect that from an intellectual stand point. From a financial view and from a “makeup is for everyone” view, that makes me cry a little. The main country that requires testing on cosmetics is China and China has well over 1 billion people. A lot of people cannot get their hands on these brands simply because of where they live.

There are a surprising number of brands in the #2 category. NYX, Smashbox, Urban Decay, and Too Faced come to mind here. Pretty much, the company has been purchased by a major brand like Estee Lauder or L’Oreal. But, the contract signed allows the original company to make the brand decisions that include which markets to sell in and to test or not. These brands have chosen to skip the markets that require testing.

Again, I respect that despite the financial and diversity thing. The controversy here is that, for some people, this arrangement is simply unacceptable. The brand may not test on animals but some of the money from their sales still goes to a company that does test. That irks a lot of ardent makeup fans that require their makeup be cruelty free.

Others think that by continuing to support the original brand but not buying from the other non-cruelty free brands owned by the parent company might “send a message” to the parent company about animal testing. That is a bit naive but it is a nice thought. The parent company isn’t going to care if 1,000,000 Europeans and Americans don’t buy their products from 1/2 of their brands because they have access to that over 1 billion people in China alone that could make up the loss by a whole damn lot.

And then #3 raises it’s ugly head. This statement means the brand doesn’t test on animals for products sold in the US or EU and other places that do not require testing (or ban it completely). But they do test for products sold in markets where testing is required – most likely China. So if you buy your products outside of China, they probably aren’t tested on animals. I’m still looking for a list of other countries that require testing – surprisingly difficult to find on Google.

The brand still participates in animal testing because they participate in the Chinese market. I can see why this is a thing – with over 1 billion people in China, not reaching into that market is counter intuitive from a financial standpoint.

Many people look at this statement as a siren call for boycott because while it is a true statement, it is misleading. It makes the company sound like they don’t test unless they are forced to test. But the choice to sell in markets that require testing is the brand’s choice. And if they signed a contract with a larger parent company that didn’t give them to chance to abstain from that market, then that is also the brand’s fault.

I think most brands that do animal testing try to fall under this umbrella so that they can say they are forced to test. Many drug store brands like Rimmel, Maybelline, and Revlon fall here. Same with high end brands like MAC, Benefit, and new addition NARS.

I have gone through a lot of makeup in the last year and about 1/2 of it has been cruelty free. I love animals and I am definitely against animal testing wherever possible. There are too many alternatives to be doing this kind of testing. I included a cruelty free category in my original Score Card where cruelty free status was about 2/25ths of the score. As I have gotten more involved with makeup, I have paid more attention to this issue. In my revamped Score Card, cruelty free status got a huge bump in value. It is now rated equally with all other factors, 1/10th of the overall score. It is as important to me as the wear time and the shade range so it should rate equally.

I am going to continue to support cruelty free brands, including those that are owned by non-cruelty free parent companies. I have tried to avoid purchasing from non-cruelty free brands in the last few months and will continue to do so. Eventually, I’d like to move over to completely cruelty free makeup. That will take considerable time especially considering how these brands seem to hope around from one status to another on a quarterly basis.

Where do you stand on this?

❤ Dee

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