Thursday, 27 August 2015

Cruelty Free vs. Vegan

I am happy to say that over the recent years there has been an influx of people converting to solely cruelty-free products. Cruelty-free products are more readily available than ever as the issue of animal testing gains more and more attention. Personally, I have always made the extra effort to use nothing but cruelty-free beauty products and am now taking the step further by going vegan as well. To clarify I am transitioning to vegan products (beauty and otherwise) not the diet and complete lifestyle or at least not at this stage.

What is Cruelty Free or Vegan? Is there a difference? 

Contrary to popular belief these are two exclusive terms and do not overlap in definition. Cruelty-free refers to the items that are not tested on animals whilst Vegan applies to items which contain no animal by-products. Ironically, just because an item is Vegan does not mean that it has not been involved in animal testing. Unfortunately there are no legally standardized definitions of either Vegan or Cruelty-free, which means that companies have some wiggle room when it comes to their advertising. I believed the term 'vegan'  to mean that something neither contains any animal product nor exploits animal's in the development or manufacturing process... But apparently not.  As a result it can be difficult to determine whether or not a product is 'truly' one or the other, let alone both. 

 Why should I?

To me there is no real option, the thought of animal testing makes my stomach turn. Just look at the adorable little faces of my two babies, how anyone could wish them or any other innocent creature on this planet harm is beyond me! 

The torture of animals is something that always upsets me, I have been moved to tears a fair few times in the course of my research into some causes. So don't worry, I won't be adding any triggering photos or sharing too many grotesque facts for my own mental well-being. The thing is there is simply no reason for animal testing in modern industry. 

In the past it was a case of insuring things were safe for us, humans. However, scientific advances have resulted in the ability to produce artificial human 'skin' and 'eyes' which can be used to study the body's natural properties and reactions. It's not just the advances that make these severely unpleasant 'tests' unnecessary, but when over 7'000 ingredients have already been proved as safe for consumers, is there really a need to keep formulating new ones? Either way, whether you're all for the constant quest for the beyond perfect mascara, shampoo or whatever, or not that fused, the fact remains that Animal toxicity tests are still not scientifically meaningful in anyway. Medically or cosmetically humans and animals are genetically different so results are meaningless. Yes that's right, those poor bunnies, guinea pigs, mice and rats are suffering for nothing! There is no 'greater good' to this process what so ever. Although I'm not going into all the shocking and repulsive details of animal testing I have to point out that animal abuse laws do not apply to lab animals - pretty much anything goes.  

Boycotting products that aren't cruelty-free is the easiest way to make a change. Animal testing has already been banned in some countries such as India, Norway and Israel. Although the opposite is true in China, where legally everything must have been tested, sick bastards! Anyway customers dictate the market, which means that every single cruelty free and vegan alternative purchased makes a different. Companies want to sell, so if market research were to show that cruelty free items were performing better there would be more motivation to change their policies.  

Remember that cruelty free only relates to the animal testing aspect of cruelty. Which is where the whole Vegan part comes in. Don't think for a moment you have to follow a vegan diet to shop vegan, I don't! The incentive to shop cruelty free is obviously all about the cute furry little things that populate our planet but you might be happy to know that vegan products come with some extra benefits! The first one being that vegan products are often the safest ones you can use on your skin. Did you know that your skin effectively eats what's on it? Bit gross, eh? Especially when you think about how clueless most of us are about what exactly is in things we smoother all over it; foundations, concealers, moisturizers, primers, bronzers, highlighters the list goes on! We naively trust that companies are using safe ingredients and hold our best interest at heart... Unfortunately that is not the case. It's a cut-throat world! A fact that means competition in the market can have a repercussions on us consumers as ingredients are often based on price in order to increase profit margins.

Parabens are often used to extend shelf life, these can be toxic and harmful to us. (Lab results have shown estrogenic activity.) The scientific jargon can be a little hard to understand and translate into lay terms so I'll let you all conduct your own research to whatever extent you like or just leave a comment/tweet/message if you'd be interested in follow up posts on the topic! For now the long story summed up in short is that harmful toxins are in many makeup products. If you study ingredient labels this is something you'll be able to see for yourself. Kind of worrying, right? Actually it's very worrying. Safe cosmetics use very low risky chemicals and all organic natural sources, and here's the key part, safe and vegan almost always overlap except in the case where animal by-products are used, obviously.

Vegan products are safe for us and the environment, win-win! If you have sensitive skin like I do then I promise you that the pros to using vegan products are immense. So I would definitely recommend making the switch for your own sake, if not to support another fantastic cause.  


How to identify what's what. 

Sometimes it can take a little bit of research to confirm to what extent a product is what. I know that we all live pretty hectic lives but hopefully we can all take that little bit of extra time into learning exactly what we're buying into. The quick fix to telling whether a product is vegan or cruelty-free is to look out for certain logos.

The small print found on the back of packaging can often tell you things about a product. However the words '100% Vegan', 'Suitable for Vegans' don't necessary mean a product is legit, same goes for 'Cruelty-free'. Any company can whack these words on their packaging without any labelling standards or organization actually verifying the claim.  Companies could use animal ingredients in the processing of a product even if they're not 'technically' contained in the final item. Technicalities are the real bitch here, like always I guess, so companies can still have tested raw ingredients on animals or have commissioned a third party to do so while still adding these labels. I would have thought that to be false advertising, but apparently not because of those good ol’ technicalities! This is where doing the research pays off, as I was disgusted to find out that my first few months of going cruelty-free weren't really cruelty at all - I'd been a victim to the farce of it all. 
Image Credit: PETA
The best way to buy with confidence is to look for products which proudly display their cruelty-free or vegan organisations logos, which obviously means their claims have been verified by the relevant party. It’s not as simple as finding one simple logo though, that would be too simple! There are several different logos and each mean a different thing and come with a certain degree of legitimacy. Don’t worry here comes your quick fire-guide starting from the bottom (least trustworthy after simply text) and working up to your new best friends the images that would never dare lie to you, ever cross their heart and hope to die. 

Image Credit: Vegan Society
So firstly we have the cruelty free bunny from PETA, this signifies that the company and their ingredient suppliers do not conduct, commission or pay for any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations or finished products. (If there ‘and vegan’ bit appears then the final product does not contain any animal ingredients. Sounds pretty thorough, but all a company has to do is complete a tiny questionnaire and sign a statement of assurance a process that causes my eyebrow raise into a suspicious expression. I wouldn’t trust those fat cats as far as I could throw them (which considering I can only lift a 20kg two handed isn’t far at all). My suspicions of this I’ll admit rather cutie of a bunny with his innocent-looking adorable heart bunny ears are enough to stop me from trusting in the presence of him (or her) when PETA fails to perform any tests or monitor any of those licensed with their logo. 

Image Credit:
However the same is true of both the Vegan symbols displayed here, who only require similar signed statements by the manufacturer but at least they do insist on documental evidence that their criteria is met… as well as a cheque.. But I’ll try not to be too sceptical, as it seems they all have to pay to license a logo.  Unfortunately at the moment there doesn’t seem to be any other authenticating organisations for vegan things, well not that I currently know of.

Image Credit: CCF
Next up is the CCF’s ickle rabbit and bold statement of what’s what, and when they say ‘not tested on animals’ they mean it, the companies that use it must have never ever ever tested any of their products or ingredients on animals, or had anyone test them on their before, or have suppliers that do AND must not use any ingredients derived from killing an animal or provided as a by-product from killed animals. That’s a tight criteria, which straight up means that all their affiliated companies make exclusively vegetarian products (Not vegan, using animal by-products doesn't always mean killing it, but can still spell cruelty - battery hens and eggs a prime example). The best part is that the CCF will not accredit companies unless all parent and subsidiaries have also been accredited so that you know that you’re not contributing any profit to animal testing at all. The catch is that the CCF don’t go further than paperwork in this process, but there is a legally binding contract on top of the simple Questionnaire and Application. Although there is no auditing system in place, the CCF does regularly monitor the accreditation of companies to ensure they stay up to scratch with their criteria. This is the logo I generally only buy by now in the cases where I haven’t conducted my own research. 

Image Credit: Leaping Bunny
Last but by no means least is the Leaping Bunny’s seal of approval that involves more than simply a bit of paperwork. Not only do companies and their ingredient suppliers have to commit to the Leading Bunny pledge of standards but  the companies also must agree to be audited once every three years by an independent assessor, making it the best logo to judge by for cruelty free products! 

Parents and Subsidiaries

As mentioned before the CCF is the only organisation to investigate parent and subsidiaries when handing out authentication, you may be wondering what this actually means or why I find it so important. Parent companies are just that, parents, imagine a family tree just made up of companies. The papa or mama being the parent while the sons and daughter are the subsidiaries. For instance L’Oreal gave birth to both the Body Shop and Urban Decay, it owns them, the implications of this are that L’Oreal makes/takes money off the top of each of these smaller brands. This is why the CCF is my key label to look for, as when buying either of the two cruelty-free brands, Urban Decay or Body Shop, you are still putting money into L’Oreal’s pocket; a pocket that throws millions towards animal testing other products of its own and other subsidiary brands. A process that defeats the original objective in my opinion.

So if you’re thinking of going cruelty-free, vegan or both I would definitely recommend it, in fact I almost command it of you all! Just be careful what you buy into, do some research and feel free to ask for advice from myself or any other cruelty-free/vegan blogger or anyone at all really! Going through and replacing one thing at a time gives you a chance to try out different brands, find what you like, grow your knowledge and avoid waste so next time you find yourself running low on something or other check out a cruelty-free and vegan alternative.

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