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Vegan Doesn’t Always Mean Cruelty-Free

In the 80’s there was one brand I was almost slavishly devoted to, both their skin care and makeup. They were not listed by Beauty Without Cruelty. The range bragged about the plant extracts used, and of course, they made claims about no animal testing. Like so many people today, I then took the claims at face value. Why would they lie? That’s the question of the age.

I had started supporting Beauty Without Cruelty in the ‘70s when they first started in South Africa. There were a couple of big names listed at the time, on a rather short list, but then SA wasn’t overflowing with the entrepreneurial spirit we see today.  When, over time, I became more involved with animal issues, and was researching in depth, I realised that my favourite brand was funding Rheumatoid Arthritis animal based research. I threw everything out immediately.

And that is the thing. It’s not whether the brand company itself is doing animal testing. That is rare indeed. These are the questions that require answering, and that is harder to research these days through clever marketing, sleight of hands in the fine print or simple omission of fact. Every brand says they don’t animal test. It is what they can prove that counts.

  • Are the ingredients proven to be free of animal testing for a minimum time span and an immovable cut-off date? Pretty much everything has been animal tested at some point, including seemingly innocuous things like rooibos, lavender, water and salt, and can be animal tested again, for various reasons including as medication, or for food or worker safety reasons.
  • Is animal based data from elsewhere being used? A classic case of passing the buck.
  • Is the holding company or subsidiaries guilty of animal testing? If so, by purchasing the so called ‘cruelty-free’ small brand, you are directly funding animal based testing, as profits go to the holding company.
  • Is the company financing animal based research for a medical issue? A brand that used to be accredited by BWC, now delisted due to ingredients they insisted on using, has changed ownership, and are now directly involved with animal based research of their major ingredient.
  • Do they make the claim that ‘occasionally, legal requirements demand animal based testing’. This is not about China. It never has been. Every big name out there claims they stopped animal testing in the late ‘80s, and they all use this loophole, because they choose to use ingredients which might be tested for pharmaceutical purposes or toxicity reasons, especially darker shades of hair dye.

Companies will not provide the public with the required detail that Beauty Without Cruelty demands. There is no cost for this service, to either consumer or company, ever. Not even for the use of the logo, once approved. Despite this, brands have made use of the logo, or made claims that they are accredited, sometimes citing exorbitant cost as the reason they never applied. Yet few have ever bothered to send us the information required to legitimise their claims. That gives pause for thought.

I must also clarify that a vegan brand product does NOT mean free of animal testing, it means there are no animal ingredients. Our list clearly shows which brands are plant based, and brands which apply now will be listed on only if they are proven free of animal testing and animal ingredients. If they are not plant based, they will not be listed but will be issued with a certificate they may use confirming they are proven free of animal based testing.

Brands listed which are vegetarian often have many plant based products in the range, and were listed before we changed the criteria, with a contract in place. Of course, we expect vegans to read labels.  We don’t ask for just a letter from a CEO stating ‘we don’t and we won’t animal test’ thus having a huge list, and where our research shows that listed brands themselves can’t accurately confirm their claims, and we don’t accept animal testing holding companies, of which there are several.

BWC now has the most stringent requirements worldwide, to our knowledge, and we are trusted by company and consumer alike. With 120+ brands listed, and something for every budget and every need, including toothpaste, sunblock, beard grooming and more, there’s no excuse not to use the guide, which offers info as to outlets and products in the range, and whether the brand is plant-based or not.

We encourage the link be kept on your phone screen so you can double-check the brand you’re looking at. Do not assume that all bunnies are the same, or that the brand label is truthful, because brands have fraudulently made use of the BWC logo, or made claims that they are accredited.

It is a guide, and the public may use whatever they wish, but they cannot claim they are using ‘cruelty-free’ options just because the brand says so on their website, or the salesperson says so or listed by well-meaning but often ignorant people using on line info, unaware of the pitfalls.

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