The following is the definition of ‘cruelty-free’ according to the Oxford Dictionary.
(of cosmetics or other commercial products) manufactured or developed by methods that do not involve experimentation on animals..
In essence, a cruelty-free product is one from animal testing at any stage of the product’s lifecycle.
How can the manufacturing or development of cosmetic products involve animal cruelty?
Cosmetics are not cruelty-free if animal testing is involved to assess the safety of a finished cosmetic product or of individual ingredients.
Different animals are used in animal tests including fish, birds, pigs, goats, cats, dogs as well as non-human primates such as monkeys and chimpanzees but the most common animals used for cosmetics tests are rabbits, mice, rats and guinea pigs.
The testing of cosmetics may involve the application of individual ingredients and/or finished products directly on the animal’s bare skin, dripped into their eye or through forced ingestion to determine whether the product causes any physical sensitivities or allergic reactions.
These tests are not only painful for the animal but also induce a lot of stress and anxiety from being moved to laboratories. The way they are handled and restrained over the duration of the experiments also cause unnecessary suffering.
Mandatory Animal Testing
As at August 2017, the Chinese government and in some states of Brazil require mandatory animal testing for cosmetic products. To make it even more difficult to choose cruelty free cosmetics, what constitutes as a cosmetic product can be somewhat confusing. For example, soap is not categorised as a cosmetic product under Chinese regulations and so animal testing may not be required.
Many large cosmetic companies also have cruelty-free statements stating that they “do not conduct animal testing unless required by law“. Many cruelty-free shoppers are caught out by these statements, only finding out later, often after they’ve made their purchases that the brands in fact do test their products on animals for the sake of maximising their profits by selling in the Chinese markets.