Cruelty Free: A movement you should definitely learn and join!

Animal Welfare

When buying a hand cream, shampoo, or foundation, what is the first thing you check? For many consumers, they look for the cruelty free label or try to see if the package has a bunny on it. Nowadays, consumers are more and more aware of how products are being made and products that are cruelty free are one way to ensure that the product is made ethically. This bunny label has an important meaning behind it, it certifies that the product is cruelty free. Cruelty free is another sustainable and ethical shopping practice. For those of you interested in taking your ethical journey a step further, you definitely should continue reading about cruelty free. Find out what cruelty free means, how to identify cruelty free products and so much more.

Cruelty Free’s Meaning

Bunny close to face that symbolize cruelty free
There are plenty of you that already know what cruelty free means, however, just in case for those that are not sure, I am going to share the definition of cruelty free with you now. Cruelty free means in the process of making the product entirely (development and actual production), no animals were harmed or tested on. The industry that uses the term cruelty free the most is the beauty industry, where skincare products and makeup are often tested on animals to ensure that they are safe. When these tests were done, the animals often end up dying or suffer in significant amounts of pain, so animal activists have been fighting for regulations that will protect the animals. However, in many countries, cruelty free is just a term that is often used in marketing or to help customers identify the product, since there are no regulations or laws or a legal definition of cruelty free. At the same time, many countries do not necessarily require animal testing on beauty products, unless the brand is selling their products in China. Then products are subjected to third party animal testing, which is why it would considered to be not cruelty free. While cruelty free is a great practice for ethical productions and better for the world, however, the current is not perfect yet, there are still some issues, such as the broadness of the definition and minimal regulations regarding the cruelty free standards.

Ambiguity Issues

As mentioned above, the term cruelty free does not have a standard legal definition, so it is possible brands can use the term loosely. In addition, cruelty free can be a very broad term, where some people would define it as the brand does not conduct animal testing, while others would define that not only the brand but supply chains and no third parties are conducting animal tests. Since there are no regulations or laws yet, the term cruelty free can still be loosely used. Depending on the brand and marketing plan, cruelty free has a few different meanings.

Here are some examples,

  1. The ingredients have been tested on animals, but the final product has not.
  2. The brand hired another company to conduct tests.
  3. The brand or manufacturer relied on test results from an outside organization.
  4. The testing occurred in a different country than the one the brand is based in (usually China because it requires animal testing).
  5. The brand only uses animal testing when it is required by law as part of expanding into foreign markets (usually China).
  6. At least one animal was harmed or killed and used for ingredients (what “animal products” means), but there was no testing.
  7. The brand, or companies involved in its supply chain, have relied on the results of past animal tests from other organizations, but they have not conducted any tests themselves, harmed any animals, or sourced any animal-derived products or byproducts.
  8. Neither the ingredients nor the products have ever been tested on animals, and the companies involved have not harmed or slaughtered any animals.
  9. The brand has a cruelty-free certification (not a legal regulation, but still provides a higher level of accountability).


While most brands use the term cruelty free to announce their products are made ethically, some brands choose to be more specific and use the terms like no animal testing, not tested on animals, or no animals were harmed in the process of making. Or as the 9th definition mentioned, cruelty free certification, label, or mark is a great way to reassure consumers that the product is cruelty free.

Cruelty Free Mark and Certified

Since there are no regulations or laws that monitor cruelty free products yet, many animal activists or animal welfare organizations have created ways to ensure the products are cruelty free. In addition, these organizations were able to create a standard and system to monitor and check if the products are truly cruelty free. Two of the most well known international cruelty free certification organizations are Leaping Bunny and Beauty Without Bunnies (PETA). When you see these marks, it represents that the product has been properly checked by individual third parties on whether or not it is truly cruelty free. The products have gone through strict regulations that can be found on the third party website.

*Please note that depending on the country you are in, there might be different certification bodies and regulations. It is recommended that you do some research about your local laws and certification bodies for the most accurate information.

Fashion and More

Even though cruelty free concept is mostly used on beauty and cosmetic products. However, animal welfare activism does not end there. Another industry where cruelty free or no harm to animals should be implemented is the fashion industry. A lot of fashion items are made with real animal fur, animal skin (leather), and so on. With technological advancement, we can now make faux fur and faux leather products that are just as good without harming animals. This doesn’t stop at fashion items, similar to fashion, some home goods (blanket, pillows, sofa, and so on) might use real fur and leather for their products. By recommending or buying more products that are faux leather or fur, consumers can show the brands that they want more ethical options. If you are interested in knowing more about cruelty free fashion, check out these 4 brands.

Beauty without Cruelty

Cruelty Free products
You will be surprised by the number of products that are available that are cruelty free. Brands and companies are seeing the signs that consumers are interested in and are demanding cruelty free products. The shift of the industry is definitely a good signs. You can definitely be beautiful, trendy, stylish without the testing of animals. Now you know about cruelty free, buying products that have the proper certifications and supporting those causes can make a difference. Even if they seem small, you are making a change and doing the best you can for the world. I hope you learned something new and if you are interested in knowing more about cruelty free, I definitely recommend you do some googling yourself. At the end of the day, just know that you have already started your ethical journey!
Learning more about cruelty free and the complex definition or about overall animal welfare.

Rauch, Joseph. “What Does ‘Cruelty-Free’ Mean? The Truth May Surprise You.” Public Goods Blog, 28 July 2020,
Author: Monica Chang
On my own ethical journey since 2010. Always happy to learn more!