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Cruelty-Free (Part 1) - Practices behind the beauty industry

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Written by Christina Storto on 2018/07/22


If you are just as obsessed with beauty products like we are, you may have a few requirements in mind when you are shopping around for the latest and greatest products to add to your bathroom cabinet such as, price, ingredients, smell and functionality but how often do you consider the impact that this product leaves behind on the environment and it’s inhabitants?

For an industry that bases itself on looking and feeling good, the impact that the beauty industry has on the environment is surprisingly quite negative.

The beauty industry is responsible for a large portion of animal testing that happens behind closed door. In the United States alone, more than 100 million animals are tortured and killed each year for animal testing.

By choosing products that are cruelty-free you can help put an end to this practice. However, the term ‘cruelty-free’ is a word that is thrown around quite often in the industry but how many of us actually understand what it really means to be a cruelty-free brand? And what is animal testing all about?

We aim to help you uncover the ugly secret of the beauty industry starting with animal testing.

What is animal testing?

Animal testing for drugs and cosmetics exists because governments need to establish whether or not a product or ingredient is safe for the public before allowing it on the market. For decades it was incredibly common place for cosmetic companies to test their products on animals.

Cosmetic testing commonly measures the reaction of animals’ skin, eyes and respiratory tracts to high concentrations of certain chemicals. Other tests determine a product’s potential to cause fatal abnormalities, cancer or genetic mutations. Pain relief is not provided and at the end of a test the animals are either re-used in subsequent experiments or are killed at the end. Fast-forward a few years and consumers are now demanding change, awareness, and a push for more brands that don’t test on animals at any stage in the production of their products.

What are some of the common procedures?

Although they are not required by law, several tests are commonly performed that expose mice, rats, rabbits and guinea pigs to cosmetics ingredients. These can include:

  • Skin and eye irritation tests where chemicals are rubbed onto the shaved skin or dripped into the eyes of restrained rabbits without any pain relief.
  •  Repeated force-feeding studies lasting weeks or months to look for signs of general illness or specific health hazards such as cancer or birth defects.
    •  Widely condemned "lethal dose" tests, in which animals are forced to swallow large amounts of a test chemical to determine the dose that causes death.

      What types of animals are used?

      Many different species are used around the world, but the most common include mice, fish, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, farm animals, birds, cats, dogs, mini-pigs, and non-human primates (monkeys, and in some countries, chimpanzees).

      It is estimated that more than 115 million animals worldwide are used in laboratory experiments every year.

      The truth: Animal testing is actually not required in most countries, there is a choice, and animal testing is not a requirement; which direction will we choose?

      Almost without exception, companies have a choice about whether or not to test on animals. In the majority of cases, animal tests continue because some companies insist on developing and using “new” and untested ingredients. These are ingredients that don’t have existing safety data—because they’re new! So new safety data has to be generated before a product can go on sale, and that means new animal testing.
      Animal testing also continues in the cosmetics industry because of convention—that’s the way it’s always been done, animal tests are familiar even if they’re flawed.


      The alternative?                                       

      Grandfathered ingredients. There are over 7,000 safe ingredients that companies can choose from. If companies simply stuck to using the many thousands of existing cosmetic ingredients available that have been already tested and have a long history of safe use, they would never have to animal test. That’s how cruelty-free companies work!

      Companies also have the option to invest in and develop alternative non-animal tests for new ingredients. Advances in technology can allow us to put an end to animal testing forever! There are nearly 50 non-animal tests that have been validated for use with many more in development (thanks to the demand) These modern alternatives can offer results that are more relevant to humans, more efficient and cost-effective. Advanced non-animal tests represent the very latest techniques that science has to offer, replacing outdated animal tests that were developed decades ago.

      Animal testing has a long and dark past but it doesn't have to be this way anymore as proven above, we can transition towards a cruelty free world which can even help us modernize our scientific techniques for a better future.

      Let's break down some labels you might find on products and what they mean.

      Cruelty Free
      Generally speaking, if a brand does not test on animals at any point during a product’s creation, it is considered cruelty-free. It may still contain animal ingredients (such as collagen, casein, lanolin, gelatin) and/or animal bi-products (for example beeswax or honey). A product can be certified cruelty free, without being vegan/vegetarian.

      Organic and Natural
      A product may contain natural and/or organic ingredients and still have been tested on animals. ‘Natural’ and ‘organic’ simply refer to the origins of the ingredients in the product, not whether or not it has been tested on animals. Depending on the certifying body of the Natural or Organic cosmetics, there may be a stipulation regarding animal testing but it varies.

      An organic or natural certification does not mean that a product and its ingredients have not been tested on animals. Suppliers are required to assess safety for natural and organic ingredients just as for synthetic materials, and evidence may be gathered using animal tests.

      Vegan and Vegetarian
      A vegan product does not contain any animal ingredients (such as collagen, casein, lanolin, gelatin) and any animal bi-products (for example beeswax or honey), and must not be tested on animals. A vegetarian product may contain animal bi-products only (i.e. beeswax or honey), and it may or may not be tested on animals.

      How To Find Cruelty-Free Brands
      There are several criteria to consider in order to determine whether or not a brand is cruelty-free. Luckily, you don’t have to dig out all this information yourself if you don’t want to, as there are several resources to point you in the right direction!

      Take a look at the logo's on a company's website or products. One of the logos to look for is the Leaping Bunny. This internationally-recognized program certifies companies as cruelty-free and assures that every brand on its list and bearing the logo does not test its cosmetics on animals at any point during production. Another logo to look for is PETA’s Caring Consumer bunny logo.

       PETA keeps a list of cruelty-free brands, as well as a list of companies that DO test on animals. This is a good place to start for anyone starting out in the Cruelty Free world! 

      Continue with part 2 here 

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