What is animal testing and why choose cruelty-free products?

In the context of this blog, animal testing refers to when procedures have been carried out on living animals to determine whether there are any side-effects, or health issues connected with an ingredient/chemical/product. Typically, animal testing for cosmetics includes: dripping chemicals into the animal’s eyes; rubbing chemicals onto their shaved skin; forcing oral consumption of chemicals. (These are just a few examples). Testing on animals, unsurprisingly, causes a great deal of psychological and physical distress to the animal.

By choosing cruelty-free products you are making the choice to not be a part of this cruelty; you are choosing to give your money to a company that has used alternative methods of testing, instead of to a company that still carries out animal testing. The more people buy cruelty-free products, the less money is put into the cruel industry of animal testing.

Is there a difference between CF and Vegan products?

Yes. For a product to be cruelty-free and vegan it must contain no animal ingredients/derivatives, and no animal testing. Products that are not tested on animals are not necessarily vegan, just as products that are vegan are not automatically cruelty-free.

Cruelty-free: For a product to be cruelty-free it should have no form of animal testing during any stage of its production. It is common for companies to not test the final product on animals, but to have tested along the way, or used ingredients that have been tested on animals by a third party. Another common statement companies will give when asked about their animal testing policy is that they only test their product when “required by law”. This means that the product is tested on animals so that their brand complies with the laws of the country they wish to sell in (China is one example). Therefore, these products are not cruelty-free, regardless of what the company or the product packaging says.

There are many different definitions of “cruelty-free”. For many, a product can only truly be cruelty-free when it is vegan as well. The attainment of animal-derived ingredients subject animals to suffering, and this industry is not something they wish to support either.

Vegan products: A vegan product does not contain any animal ingredients, or animal derived ingredients. Many think that “vegan” automatically means it’s free from animal testing, but it’s important to be aware that just because a product is vegan doesn’t mean that the company doesn’t test their products on animals.

Some common ingredients found in products are (but not exclusive to):

  • Gelatine (aka the boiled skin, tendons, ligaments and/or bones of animals, usually cows or pigs) A few examples of use: shampoos; face masks; cosmetics, etc.
  • Lanolin (aka Grease from animal wool) Examples of use: a lot of lip balms/lipsticks; lotions; shampoos, etc.
  • Guaine/CI 75170/ “natural peal essence” (aka fish scales) Examples of use: nail polishes; shampoo, etc.
  • Cholesterol (aka animal fats) Examples of use: face creams; moisturises, etc.
  • Honey/Beeswax (aka pollen that bees “spit” up) Examples of use: lip balms/sticks; lotions; cosmetics, etc.
  • Carmine (aka crushed cochineal bugs): Examples of use: lipsticks; blush; eyeshadow, etc.

There are many, many more animal ingredients than the ones listed above, so if you want to check if a product is cruelty-free and vegan it is best to go for the products that are certified as vegan, or to email the company for a list of their vegan products. (Most will be willing to oblige).

Parent-Company-Owned Brands: Sometimes a brand can be cruelty-free themselves, but are owned by a company that is not cruelty-free. This can pose moral difficulties for people who want to shop cruelty-free, as they are not sure whether it is ethical to buy from a company that is owned by a cruelty-company.  Whether or not you support parent-owned companies is your choice, but here are some of the reasons that are frequently debated “for”, and “against” the decision:-

“For” Supporting:

The brands owned by the non-cruelty-free company are still committed to their no animal testing policy, even when they are bought out by the parent company.

– By supporting these brands, consumers are showing the cruelty-company that there is a demand for cruelty-free production, and hope that they’ll see it is equally as profitable and consider going cruelty-free overall.

“Against” Supporting:

                -Money spent on these products are essentially financially supporting companies that test on animals, and therefore can be seen as indirectly funding animal testing.

-The ethics of a company who sell out to company who test on animals is questionable.


Ultimately the decision is yours. I would personally encourage products to be bought from a cruelty-free company that is not owned by a parent company, however, it is important to recognise that this may not always be possible or convenient for some. In my opinion, if you are unable to buy products from a cruelty-free company all the time, it is better to buy from a parent-company-owned brand than one that openly tests on animals.

It’s all a personal choice, and whether you want to shop cruelty-free and vegan, cruelty-free, or cruelty-free but owned by a parent-company, is up to you. They’re all decisions that make a conscious effort to shop with compassion, and that’s fantastic! Any step to minimise animal suffering should be seen as a positive one.