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.
“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.