The Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Mystery: What’s With All the Labels?

December 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Beauty Products, Blog, Front Page, Slideshow, Take Action, Vegan

PETA's cruelty free logo assures consumers that a product and its ingredients were not tested on animals. Photo: Courtesy PETA

Like a lot of people, the thought of applying cosmetics that were once slathered into rabbits‘ eyes or forced down rats‘ throats makes me want to make a mad dash for the makeup remover. But navigating the sea of cosmetics and decoding their labels to figure out which were and which were not tested on animals can seem tougher than getting “Call Me Maybe” out of your head. So I looked into some of the most common labels found on cosmetics, and here’s what I found:

PETA LogosPETA crueltyfree and vegan logos

To help consumers identify products that are manufactured without harming animals, PETA introduced its bunny-and-heart logo. Companies that want to use this logo must refrain from conducting, commissioning, or paying for any tests on animals for their products, formulations, or ingredients and must also buy from suppliers that don’t test those ingredients on animals.

And those über compassionate companies whose products meet the standards of being both cruelty-free and free of any animal products can proudly display PETA’s “Cruelty-Free and Vegan” logo.

The Leaping Bunny

The Leaping Bunny logo is offered by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, a group of animal protection organizations that combined efforts in 1996 to set standards for cruelty-free companies. (PETA was involved in the original coalition but later left to offer its own logo.) In order to license the logo, companies, their laboratories, and their suppliers can’t conduct any animal testing and can’t pay an outside party to test for them.

“This Finished Product Not Tested on Animals”

I have always been baffled by the phrase “This Finished Product Not Tested on Animals.” Is it cruelty-free? Were the ingredients tested on animals? Confused, I usually just avoided those products. And no wonder it was confusing: The phrase actually can mean different things.

It may mean that some of the ingredients or formulations were tested on animals, or as in the case of Bath & Body Works, the company may use the phrase because it also sells products in the same packaging in the U.K., where labeling laws are different from in the U.S., but the products are nevertheless completely cruelty-free.

Other Logos

Then there are the myriad other “cruelty-free” logos and phrases that the cosmetics companies themselves design and slap onto their own products. If shoppers think they look suspect, it’s because they may be. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate these types of labels, so companies can claim virtually anything they wish. While some of the companies may truly be cruelty-free, many likely test at least ingredients on animals.

So, aside from the Leaping Bunny and PETA logos, how can a conscientious consumer tell what’s cruelty-free and what isn’t?

PETA’s Caring Consumer database contains lists of companies that test on animals and those that don’t, and it’s easily searchable by company name or product type. Shoppers can download printer-friendly “Do Test” and “Don’t Test” lists or request a free wallet-size Cruelty-Free Shopping Guide to make shopping for new products as easy as giving a carrot to a bunny — a bunny who’s thankful not to be in a laboratory.

Michelle Kretzer

Guest Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

About the Author: Michelle Kretzer learned about factory farming while pursuing a degree in Journalism at the University of Kentucky. She immediately stopped eating meat and dedicated herself to the cause of animal rights. When she is not writing for the PETA Foundation, Michelle enjoys traveling, collecting Beatles memorabilia, and finding great cruelty-free shoes and bags.

About PETA: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, with more than 3 million members and supporters, is the largest animal rights organization in the world. PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in laboratories, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry.