Defining cruelty-free

The first step towards a cruelty-free lifestyle is to understand what the term ‘cruelty-free’ really means. There are so many meanings to this little phrase, and can seriously mislead caring consumers in opting for brands that make this claim, but are actually anything but cruelty-free. We’re here to help you understand the term in its whole sense, no loopholes, by defining cruelty-free.

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Defining Cruelty-Free

Cruelty-free

The standard definition for cruelty-free can be applied to any company that does not test its products on animals, and therefore, ingredients present could be animal ingredients, or animal-derived. Globally, there are no regulations to define ‘cruelty-free’, meaning brands that do test their products on animals at any stage can also claim to be cruelty-free, or can make statements saying that they do not test on animals, which is far from the truth.

So how can we say that a brand is truly cruelty-free?

We consider a brand to be cruelty-free only if they meet ALL of the below criteria –

Cruelty-free

1. The final/finished product is not tested on animals.

Of course, there are brands that do not test their products on animals at any stage, and we love them for it. There are brands, however, that claim to not test their finished products on animals, which could mean that they probably employ animal testing to ascertain the safety and potency of their ingredients.

2. The ingredients are not tested on animals, either by the company, its suppliers, or third-party vendors.

So here’s the thing – when companies claim that they do not test their final products on animals, there is a high chance that the product ingredients may be tested on animals. While some companies may not conduct these tests themselves, their suppliers (of ingredients or raw materials) may use animal-testing methods to ensure that said ingredients are safe for humans.

3. The company does not sell in countries where animal testing is mandatory/required by law.

If the company is a big-name brand, chances are that it is sold in China (mainland), where animal testing is mandatory for foreign cosmetic companies/imported brands. Sucks, right?

4. Official brand claim

We love transparent and official communication of their cruelty-free status from brands. This, plus all of the above criteria, is used to identify a brand as cruelty-free.

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When the parent is the bad guy

There are umpteen brands that are truly cruelty-free, but are owned by brands (parent brands) that test on animals. This can cause a clash of values for some, and that is completely fine. If you are not comfortable supporting a cruelty-free brand that is owned by a parent that tests on animals, you can opt for independent brands that do not partake in animal testing, and we will call these brands out specifically in our posts. We cover cruelty-free brands, irrespective of who they are owned by, because we believe that if a brand has stood up to the pressure of the parent and has not compromised on its promise to its consumers, it deserves some credit.


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There you have it! A quick guide to defining cruelty-free, to help you understand what it truly means. We know, we know – it’s a lot to remember. But hey, that’s what we’re here for! Check out our list of cruelty-free brands available in India (and one about brands that test on animals), and we promise, this list will be regularly updated. For more information, you can refer to our other posts under Cruelty-free Starter Kit, or reach out to us via our Contact page.

We are also active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. If you feel that this post has been helpful to you, please share it with your friends and family, and join us on our cruelty-free journey.

Happy guilt-free shopping, folks!


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Image credits – Rafael Bugajewski, and Ajith Kumar.