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Is It Really Cruelty Free?

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

I spend a lot of time reading the fine print just to make sure what I’m buying is cruelty-free. I just found out that that may not be enough.

Based on a recent study, University of Missouri and Oregon researchers found that manufacturers of shampoo, cosmetics, fragrances, and pharmaceuticals, use the term “cruelty-free” to attract buyers, giving consumers the impression that no animal testing was used while manufacturing and testing the products. However, that is not always the case.

Look for the Leaping Bunny logo.

“Because there is no legal standard for what is and isn’t cruelty-free, consumers are vulnerable to deceptive advertising,” says Joonghwa Lee, a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. “A company may claim their product is cruelty-free, but there still may be some animal testing done somewhere along the manufacturing process. This could lead to consumers being tricked into buying products that they do not support.” 

According to Lee, cruelty-free may mean that the company never tested any of the product’s ingredients on animals, or it could simply indicate that the final product wasn’t tested on animals. It could also mean that the company itself didn’t test its product on animals but paid a third party to do its dirty work. 

During the study, Lee and lead author Kim Sheehan, a professor in the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, asked 132 participants about their knowledge of cruelty-free labeled products. “Participants in our study who recognized the term cruelty-free indicated that they would be more likely to buy products that were cruelty-free,” Lee says. “However, once they learned the wide range of definitions that exist for cruelty-free products, they found using the cruelty-free designation to be less socially responsible and less safe than they did before learning that information.”

Sheehan and Lee say their findings are concerning in regard to consumer protection. Sheehan and Lee believe there should be a legal definition for what constitutes a cruelty-free product to help protect consumers. “Our study shows that consumers rely on their own personal moral values to make decisions,” Sheehan says. “If the product information consumers receive is misleading, then they are not able to make important decisions in ways that they would consider morally correct. Creating a legal standard to define terms like cruelty-free will aid consumers in making the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

Look for the Leaping Bunny
The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) is a group that investigates animal testing by personal care product manufacturers. CCIC awards the “Leaping Bunny” seal to companies that pledge that no new animal testing will be used in any phase of product development by the company, its laboratories, or ingredient suppliers.

To read about Leaping Bunny and to find a list of companies that do not test on animals, click here.

39 comments to Is It Really Cruelty Free?

  • Companies are required by the laws of their government to test ingredients for consumer safety. Many are moving these tests in vitro, as opposed to on animals where possible and permitted.

    A legal standard for what is and isn’t cruelty-free will be a very long process at best. I can only imagine the complexity of those discussions moving forward.

    Thanks for the informative post.

  • Sadly, two companies that I patronized as creulty-free — Avon and Estee lauder –have just admitted that they send their products out to contract labs for cruel animal testing.

  • I didn’t know that about Avon. I don’t use their products. I own very little makeup because I just don’t trust a lot of the cosmetic companies. Thanks for letting us know. –Best, Michele

  • Carol Hupp

    very good information, thank you Michele

  • Steven

    I also can be found reading labels to make sure they are cruelty-free. Thanks!

  • Laura

    It’s disappointing that we can’t trust a manufacturer when it says “cruelty-free” on the package. Thanks!

  • Robin

    I shop at Beauty Without Cruelty.

  • Jasmine

    Thanks for the link to Leaping Bunny!

  • Sara

    I’m a Beauty Without Cruelty shopper.

  • Alison

    I always look for the bunny symbol.

  • Bonnie

    Thanks Michele. I thought if it said “cruelty-free” it was. Now, I will look for the bunny symbol and check out Leaping Bunny.

  • Joy

    Great content Michele! Thanks, and I also shop at Kiehls.

  • Rory

    Thanks! And this really pisses me off. We try to do the right thing by shopping ethically, and they try to pull the wool over our eyes. I shop at Beauty Without Cruelty.

  • Katie

    I don’t buy any P&G or supermarket brands. Beautywithoutcruelty is great, and Kiehl’s in Manhattan is a fun store to shop in.

  • Kera

    Afterglow cosmetics doesn’t test on animals. I never buy products that test on animals.

  • Andrea

    Kiss My Face has some lovely body lotions that you can find at better supermarkets. They are affordable and never test on animals.

  • Peggy

    Thanks Michele! And your readers are offering excellent alternatives! I also never buy products that test on animals.

  • Anne

    I shop at Kiehls online and only buy 100%cruelty-free products. I would never buy anything from a company that tests on animals. It’s just wrong to support these cos.

  • Felicia

    I’m not a fan of PETA, but they do have a list of cruelty-free products that is worth checking out.

  • Wanda

    Hi M, Another great post. I know you don’t wear much makeup and we have that in common too. I can’t buy anything that is tested on animals. It is wrong!

  • Erin

    Orjene Organics has some beautiful essential oils.

  • Martha

    thanks for sharing the list at Leaping Bunny. Glad they exist.

  • Patti

    Beauty Without Cruelty is my fav too!

  • Kiana

    I see so many people buy Beauty Without Cruelty. I like them too. I never buy anything from P&G or Almay or Avon. They all test!

  • Charley

    I also use natural henna with the bunny symbol on the box.

  • Julia

    Thanks to the researchers at the U of Missouri and Oregon for sharing this info.

  • Great article! I called Leaping Bunny a couple of years ago (from Canada) to request some very handy pocket-sized lists of ‘good’ companies. They were so friendly. They sent me a bunch and I handed them out on my travels. I now have their App on my smartphone.
    Hooray for Leaping Bunny!

  • I buy one product that says NOT TESTED ON ANIMALS. I hope I can believe them.

  • The only way any one can be certain a company doesn’t test on animals at ANY stage of the products manufacturing is if it’s awarded the leaping bunny logo. This means that company goes through rigorous tests to make sure it is in fact cruelty free. The leaping bunny is 100% trustworthy as opposed to Petas bunny badge which is acquired through a company simply filling in a form. I wrote 2 posts on this only last week which clears up a lot of grey areas for people. Please feel free to take a look!

    Remember the leaping bunny is awarded by the BUAV who are the most respected animal welfare organization in the world. Google them if you’re not familiar


  • Ashley talwar

    Hi, thanks for the info! I was appalled to learn recently that Mary Kay also agreed to allow their products to be animal tested for distribution in the Chinese market! I was an avid MK user before. From now on, I’m going strictly Leaping Bunny certified.

  • Jessica

    I know a lot about ‘cruelty free’ products however I also know that Sainsbury’s are certified with the BUAV’s Leaping Bunny BUT on their bottles etc they don’t have the Leaping Bunny symbol. How confusing is that to consumers! The best thing anyone can do is look on the BUAV’s website BEFORE they go out shopping, I have a downloadable tiny booklet that I always keep in my purse.

  • alex+von brands suki, 100% Pure, and Original Moxie are certified by the CCIC Leaping Bunny Program, assuring that no new animal testing is used in any phase of product development by the company, its laboratories, or suppliers.

  • You are very smart Jessica! Thanks for the tip.–Michele

  • Good for you Ashley!–Best, Michele

  • Thanks Samantha, I knew about PETA’s list too, and didn’t want to mention it because of what you wrote. Thanks!–Michele

  • Anne

    Dr. Bonner products!

  • I am very proud to say that Astonish cleaning products never test on animals, they never have, and all Astonish products are vegetarian. Astonish has had very strong ethics since it was established back in the late 1970s. There is only one Astonish Factory, where all the products originate from, so they know, all products are free from any derivatives of meat, and cruelty free!

  • […] Look for the Leaping Bunny logo to ensure that your cosmetic products are cruelty free

  • Anne

    My favorite makeup comes from Beauty Without Cruelty! Thanks for this post.