Unfortunately No Legal Definition Exists
This is potentially one of the most confusing terms used in the cosmetics industry because there is no legal definition of how to use the term cruelty free in the cosmetics industry. This has created enormous confusion and controversy for everyone. Our goal is to help people get to the truth, so we’ve had to create our own definitions to easily guide you.
The Big Problem: Brands use deceptive Language
The problem today is that a brands animal testing policy is now written by lawyers and carefully worded in most cases to give the impression a brand will not tolerate animal testing on their products, but gives them an “out clause” if they actually conduct or knowingly allow testing.
Common Disclosure Problems and “Legal Out Clauses”
These are signs a brand is not being transparent in their animal testing policy:
- there is no animal testing policy
- Incomplete animal testing policy
- unclear disclosure on testing of ingredients by the brand or suppliers
- “unless required by law” language added to testing policy statements
How We Define Cruelty Free Meaning
We consider a brand cruelty free if they affirm in writing that they will not allow testing of their products or ingredients on animals in any part of their process in bringing the product to market. This includes testing of ingredients by suppliers or finished products by regulators.
The unfortunate problem is so many brands have not been 100% transparent on this issue, so we have created 5 categories for brands. After we review a brands’ disclosure we will assign them to one of the following 5 categories.
How We Rank Brands
After an in-depth review of a brands disclosure practices, parent company track record, and review of legal filings with regulators we rank them into one of these sub-categories:
Tests on Animals (Level 1)
This is the lowest category and describes brands that knowingly test on animals, or have no regard for animal welfare, or allow testing of their products or ingredients by regulators or suppliers.
If an animal testing policy statement include legal out clauses like “where required by law” it is assumed they allow testing – otherwise, why would you say it?
We urge readers to boycott all brands that agree to any level of animal testing to help promote the end of all animal testing worldwide.
Declares As Cruelty Free (Level 2)
This category describes brands that affirm in writing they are cruelty free but don’t certify to any standard.
This is the “trust us” category, without providing any assurance or 3rd party certification they are cruelty free. For these reasons it is a very low bar and has the potential for deception.
Certified Cruelty Free (Level 3)
This category describes brands that have certified to 3rd party organizations they are cruelty free.
With this certification they commit to monitoring their supply chain, and to avoid selling in countries that have animal testing regulations. The two most trusted 3rd party certifiers are PETA and Leaping Bunny.
Between these two, Leaping Bunny has the highest standards and is considered the gold-standard in cruelty free certification.
Certified Kind (Level 4)
This category describes brands that certify with 3rd parties as cruelty free and vegan across their entire product line.
These brands have gone the extra step to ensure no animal has been harmed in the creation of their products, either through testing, or through using animals as ingredients.
Ethically Kind (Level 5)
This is our highest category and describes ethical brands that certify with 3rd parties as cruelty free and vegan across their entire corporate portfolio of owned brands.
These are brands that have taken an ethical stand to never support animal harm in any part of their corporate entities (ie. corporate parents, sister brands, or sub-brands). Independent brands that certify as cruelty free and vegan also fall into this top category.