"Cruelty-Free" generally refers to the claim by a brand that their products are not tested on animals in the beauty industry. However, most countries do not regulation the term "cruelty-free" and therefore we have to be extra careful when we see the word "cruelty-free" on the packaging.
Some brands adhere to the strict standard of not testing both their end products and the raw materials. On the other hand, some brands may also claim to be "cruelty-free" but indeed only referring to the end products - which means that the brands may purchase raw materials from third parties that are tested on animal. Furthermore, while some brands claim that "WE do not test on animals", they may in fact hired third party companies to carry out the animal testing for them. Therefore, we must be very careful even though the brand claim to be "cruelty-free".
Regulation on Animal Testing
The US FDA requires all the cosmetics products to be sold are safe and the brands/manufacture should "employ whatever testing is appropriate and effective for substantiating the safety of their products". In other words, animal testing for cosmetics products is currently neither required nor banned in the US. (This is contrasted with some countries like China that animal testing is a must for cosmetics products.)
The EU has banned animal testing for cosmetics products in 2013. The sale of cosmetics products or ingredients that are test on animals, no matter where the test is carried out, will be illegal.
Australia is setting to ban the sale of cosmetics products that are tested on animals in July 2017. Both the cosmetics products or their ingredients cannot be tested on animals under the new law. However, the law will only be applied to new products but not existing products already in the market.
Animal testing is still allowed in Singapore although guidelines have been set for such testing.
Are the products safe without animal testing?
The primary aim for animal testing is to ensure the cosmetics products are safe for human use. To achieve that aim, there are many alternatives to check the safety of a product and animal test is NOT the only way to ensure a cosmetics product is safe. For example, synthetic skin that are grown from human stem cells in lab can replace the testing on animal skin. While animal skin may react differently to chemicals than human skin, the synthetic skin is a better option as it will react the same as human skin.
We have consolidated a table below with information from PETA to compare how alternative tests can replace animal testing:
Since almost all countries do not have a legal definition on "cruelty-free" and "not tested on animals", certifications become an important way to identify brands and products that are truly cruelty free. Below we explain two of the most well-recognised cruelty free certifications in the industry:
1. Leaping Bunny
Who: Leaping Bunny is developed by Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC). The CCIC is formed by eight national protection groups which you can know more from here.
Requirement - In order to be Leaping Bunny Certificated, the brand must meet the following requirement:
- Do not conduct or commission third party to conduct animal testing of the products and/or the ingredients
- Do not purchase ingredients from companies that conduct animal testing
- Must implement a supplier monitoring system
- Do not allow animal testing to be performed by or for submission to regulatory agencies in foreign countries
- The company must be open to independent audits, and commitments are renewed on an annual basis
Exception - The prohibition of animal testing will not be applied if it is the following scenario:
- The ingredient was tested to meet explicit statutory or regulatory requirements for animal testing; AND
- The testing was not conducted to assess safety, efficacy, or environmental effects of Cosmetics and/or Household Products
2. PETA "Beauty Without Bunnies"
Who: Beauty Without Bunnies is ran by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) which is one of the largest animal rights organisation in the world.
Requirement: The company is required to complete a short questionnaire and sign a statement of assurance at they do not conduct or commission any animal tests on ingredients, formulations, or finished products and that they pledge not to do so in the future. (Note: c.f. Leaping Bunny that PETA does not require the company to be open to audit in order to renew the certification.)
The public has been more aware of the issue of animal testing in the beauty industry in the past few years. However, many people are still oblivious of how animals are hurt in the production of cosmetics products that they put on their faces/bodies everyday. We can always do more and educate people around us about the cruelty of animal testing and how products with alternatives testing is as safe (or even safer) than products tested on animals. As a first step, feel free to forward this article to your friends and let them know more about this topic!
Disclaimer: This post is for reference only.