Cruelty-Free Vs Vegan

What’s the difference between ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘vegan’?

By Sunny Subramanian

By shopping cruelty-free, you’re helping save animals and using your purchasing power to increase the demand for more compassionate products. Even though beauty brands are starting to catch up with the times by ditching animal testing, there are still companies that haven’t yet made the switch.

But there’s a fuzzy area here too: there may be some confusion as to what these terms mean in the world of beauty products and whether or not they are mutually exclusive. Bottom line: Cruelty-free products are not always vegan; by the same token, ‘accidentally vegan’ products are not always cruelty-free. Confusing, huh?

It gets worse. When shopping cruelty-free, it’s important to note that some vegan and cruelty-free companies are actually owned by parent companies that animal test. There are so many variables to watch for.

An example of this is Urban Decay. Although it remains a ‘cruelty–free’ beauty brand, in 2012 Urban Decay was acquired by L’Oreal, a company that doesn’t animal test except when required to by law, such as in China (in the USA, animal testing is not required by law). It’s a personal choice as to whether or not these companies are worth supporting.

Some would argue that supporting cruelty-free brands owned by parent companies that animal test ultimately supports more animal testing. Others would argue that any support of cruelty-free brands sends a message to the parent company and the beauty market in general, that there is a growing demand for animal-friendly alternatives.

It’s your choice. And there’s a lot of choice. Solution: check out PETA’s Cruelty-Free Shopping Guide, a free handy resource that lists all the companies that do and don’t animal test. Also, be on the lookout for either Leaping Bunny or PETA’s Cruelty-Free Bunny logos on all your beauty products; these are issued to firms that comply with strict cruelty-free standards (although not all cruelty-free beauty brands use these logos, so when in doubt, email companies directly and ask).

Check the label

‘Cruelty-free’ refers to products that are not tested on animals, and ‘vegan’ refers to products that do not contain any animal-derived ingredients. Hopefully one day, ‘cruelty-free’ will actually mean 100% cruelty-free; that is, no animal anything at all (zero testing and zero animal by-products). Until then, read the labels.

Taken from March/April 2015 (Issue 4) Vegan Life Magazine


The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.