How to Identify Cruelty Free and Vegan Products

One of the most important factors of buying a new product for me is… is it cruelty free? When I was in eighth grade, I learned about the horrible tests animals endure for the sake of beauty and personal care products. It was a wake-up call for me and made me think of that bunnies, guinea pigs, and rats go through for me to use a certain product.

If you’re like me, you want to see these practices come to an end altogether, but until then, all you can do is opt-in for vegan and cruelty free goods. Let’s talk a bit about how to know which companies support this agenda and how to identify them.

Don’t make assumptions

Not every company that claims they are cruelty free are actually cruelty free. Believe it or not, there is no rule in the U.S. or Canada that regulates the phrase “cruelty free” or “not tested on animals”. That means that any company can make that claim and get away with it.

Even companies that have a whole webpage devoted to saying they don’t conduct tests can be untrustworthy without proper certification. If they are not backed by recognized organizations and programs, their claim probably has little value.

Furthermore, not every company that uses a cute logo is cruelty free, either. Many companies uses unofficial, and uncertified, logos that they make themselves to advocate for an agenda that they aren’t even following. Be on the lookout for paw prints or hearts- none of the official logos have those.

Fake “cruelty free” logos I made

PETA

PETA, or, “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals”, is an organization aimed at educating policymakers and regular consumers on the harmful treatment of animals in labs, the food industry, and the fashion industry. They do this as well as rescuing animals from domestic abuse and hoarding situations, pushing for companies to abandon practices involving animals, and lobbying for animal rights.

PETA has been around since 1980 and has their own group of volunteers and staff that uncover animal cruelty in even remote corners of the world. There has been controversy on whether or not PETA is actually helpful to the animal community, and I encourage you to do your own research to determine whether that’s true or not.

The main reason they have a bad rap is because, in some cases, they put animals down because it’s the most humane thing to do. Based on who you are and what you believe, tis can be a good or bad thing.

There is such a thing as PETA Certified, and it basically means that the company claims to be cruelty free. If certified, the company’s CEO has signed a statement of assurance declaring that the company and its partners do not at any stage of the production process conduct, commission, or pay for testing of any kind on animals and will not do so in the future.

Not only that, but PETA requires that the company provide detailed paperwork that describes what ingredients they use, how they test their products, where they are sold, and what kinds of products they offer AND requires agreements with suppliers to make sure they don’t test on animals either.

Lastly, PETA requires that the company pay a $350 fee to use their logo on their website and their products. Here’s the logo variations below:

PETA certified logo variations

There’s more variations depending on the year of certification. One thing I’ve noticed on their website is that ONLY the statement of assurance and the one time fee is required for companies to use the PETA logo, which doesn’t necessarily mean they are certified. So if you want to make sure they are PETA certified, look up the company name in PETA’s “Beauty Without Bunnies” Database, found here

A company doesn’t have to do any follow-up documentation or provide proof to PETA of their continuing commitment once they are certified, which is why when a company is certified under PETA”s “Beauty Without Bunnies” program, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are cruelty free afterwards. Also, PETA does not ensure that foreign countries don’t conduct testing on animals with the company’s products, so, in a sense, that company can still be conducting tests abroad.

Leaping Bunny Program (CCIC)

Another prominent and important “cruelty free” organization that is made up of eight smaller organizations. is called the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC). This organization has a program called the Leaping Bunny Program that is pretty much a collection of 2,000+ companies that are committed to ending animal testing. To become Leaping Bunny Certified, a company must do several things…

It cannot conduct, commission, or be a party to any kind of animal testing. That includes suppliers and even post-production processes. The company also cannot purchase products or ingredients from third parties that have been tested on animals. If they do, they must find an alternative to be Leaping Bunny Certified. In order to verify that the company is complying with this rule, it has to either submit a supplier monitoring system or submit a sample Purchase Order of their ingredients and supplies to the CCIC.

Also, if the company only distributes the products or goods, those third party suppliers have to submit a Declaration of Product Compliance AND a Declarations of Raw materials Compliance to the company.

The company also cannot allow animal testing of their products to be done in foreign countries and a sample contract addendum must be submitted to the CCIC. the company also has to sign the Application for Approval to the CCIC as well as recommit annually AND must commission an independent audit by a firm approved by the CCIC.

The CCIC requires a fee to use the logo based on the company’s gross sales for the year that is reapplied each year.

If you’ve read up to this point, I think you’ll agree that the Leaping Bunny Program doesn’t f*ck around. They have a whole ton of processes and regulations in place to make sure that a certified company not only is cruelty free, but will stay that way. By the way, here’s their logo:

Leaping Bunny Certified Logo

So there you have it- a more or less comprehensive breakdown of the Leaping Bunny program. You can tell it’s more rigorous than PETA because of the smaller size of companies under its database. It is growing, however, and having high standards is a good thing, especially when dealing with something as important as animal testing.

The Leaping Bunny Program is followed by many organizations such as Cruelty Free International and Choose Cruelty Free Australia, which, as of 2021, merged with CFI. Know that a company is Leaping Bunny Certified if you also happen to see this logo:

CFI Leaping Bunny Logo

This logo is virtually the same as the original Leaping Bunny logo, except that testing on animals might be done in parts of China and is allowed by CFI.

Vegan Action

Being certified as “vegan” is a lot more rare because the term encompasses not just abstaining from using any animals or animal derived ingredients, but also abstaining rom animal tests as well. So if a company is truly vegan, it has no contact with animals whatsoever in its production, development, packaging, or distributing process.

If you want to know whether or not a product is actually vegan or not, look out for the Certified vegan logo by the organization Vegan Action. They certify individual products, not companies.

Certified Vegan Logo

This organization has been around online since 1995 and has certified over 10,000 products worldwide. They have a $100 application fee and require documents proving that the product in question doesn’t use any animal parts or animal derived ingredients, and doesn’t test other ingredients or raw materials on animals. The licensing fee is determined based on the gross income of the company that makes the product and expires after 12 months.

This is a pretty hefty process because, for every ingredient used in a product, there must be a document provided to show that it is vegan. Furthermore, if a company wishes to have multiple products certified, they have to go through the process for all of them, fees included.

Finishing up…

So now that you’ve read up on how to tell whether a company is cruelty free or vegan, you are well on your way to becoming a responsible and compassionate consumer. It’s not always easy to find companies that are entirely innocent, and, in many cases, they are newer and more costly, so converting to them might take some time and financial investments.

The reward for using products that are not harmful to animals is extremely satisfying, and makes you feel good about yourself in general. Consider making the switch today, tomorrow, or even next year, because when you do, you will never look back. Thank you for reading, and, as always, hobble on.

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