We’re all comfortable with the fact that vegan means animal-free, so logic says that vegan equals cruelty-free, right?
Not necessarily! In this week’s blog we look at the terminology used by companies to help consumers ask the right questions and make the right choice for them.
It should be a no-brainer that we want to buy cruelty-free products. Items such as cosmetics and toiletries are largely a consumer choice (although you could argue the necessity for cleanliness and personal hygiene). However, most of the products that fill our bathroom shelves can be considered as ‘luxuries’ – and it feels wrong to still be conducting experiments on animals simply to prove they’re safe for us to use. A sometimes-forgotten flip side to the unnecessary suffering caused in animal tests is that non-human animal methods don’t accurately represent the human body, its physiology and its reactions – there are better ways to predict and test safety and efficacy. Developing animal-free, more human-relevant science provides more reliable and reproducible results, which will ensure ingredients and products that are safer than ever for humans.
Fortunately, animal testing bans on cosmetics and toiletries are coming into force in an ever-increasing portion of the world as more human-relevant science is being researched, developed and implemented. But do these bans mean 100% animal-free products? The answer is no!
What does cruelty-free really mean?
‘Cruelty-free’ is generally understood to mean that the ingredients and the finished product were ‘not tested on animals’. ‘Vegan’, ‘animal-free’ or ‘animal-product-free’ refers to products that do not contain any animal-derived ingredients or animal by-products, it doesn’t confirm that the testing performed was vegan-compliant. Click for more reasons to choose animal-product-free testing
Cruelty-Free versus Animal-Product-Free
It’s widely accepted that animal testing means carried out either in vivo (performed or taking place in a living organism) or ex vivo (directly taken from a living organism) and that in vitro (in glass) methods are the cruelty-free alternative to animal testing. The potential grey area in product development and safety assessment is the use of in vitro tests which do not always equate to animal-free tests since animal by-products may well have been used in certain components. One example of this is the use of Foetal Bovine Serum (FBS), a material commonly used to promote cell growth for in vitro cell cultures. FBS is commonly harvested by means of a cardiac puncture without any form of anaesthesia and it is reasonably supposed that bovine foetuses are exposed to pain and/or discomfort. In addition to the ethical concerns, several scientific and technical problems exist regarding the use of FBS in cell culture. In a recent seminar as part of the 11th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences, Dr Carol Treasure explained how standard test guidelines have been adapted to replace animal components and how future methods are being developed to use fully chemically defined systems.
So what does truly animal-free testing look like?
We believe that to be able to claim a product is truly vegan then all testing performed on its ingredients and the finished product must be vegan too, without the use of non-human animal-derived serum, tissues or antibodies. Only then can you say that the product is 100% animal-product-free AND 100% cruelty-free.
Hopefully one day, ‘cruelty-free’ will mean ‘100% animal-free’: zero animal testing and zero animal by-products.
Check out this podcast with Breaking Beauty from June 2021 when Carol joined Cruelty Free Kitty Founder Suzana Rose to discuss “What does cruelty-free beauty really mean?” for a deeper dive into these consumer-focussed claims.