Intro to Cruelty-Free Products: Everything You Need to Know


I assume you have heard about the concept of animal testing. Before I started my journey to an animal-friendly lifestyle, I never put much thought into what was being tested on animals and what methods were being used. I didn’t even know products could be certified as cruelty-free!

While doing research on vegetarianism, I came across articles and graphic videos uncovering the horrific reality that these animals face as a result of product development. In order to test new chemicals, household products, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and ingredients (for human use), animals are often severely mistreated. According to the Humane Society International, they are subject to confined living spaces, physical restraint, forced inhalation, food/water deprivation, forced feeding, loneliness, and pain. Animals often die as a result of testing. Although this sounds like abuse, animal abuse laws do not apply to laboratory animals. Most commonly, mice, rats, bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters, chimpanzees, cats, and dogs are used for testing. I look at my two dogs laying beside me and cringe imagining them in place of these animals.

I believe if I do not want it done to my pet, it should not be done to any animal.


The cosmetic industry alone is responsible for animal testing on approximately 100,000 – 200,000 animals per year. The Humane Society International states these animals include “rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, and mice. Dogs and monkeys are never used to test cosmetics anywhere in the world” (but they are used in other industries).

There is no law in the United States requiring companies to test on animals yet they still do. Thousands of ingredients are deemed safe for human use but companies continue to animal test to develop NEW ingredients. This means forcing ingredients down animal throats to test effects of ingestion or dripping the ingredient into their eyes/on their skin to test for irritation. These tests are often repeated for months on end. You can imagine the side effects.

Since the ethics of animal testing have only recently been questioned, not enough alternatives have been discovered to replace every method of animal testing. Strides are being made where some scientists are reducing the number of animal test subjects, creating better living conditions, and using any of the roughly 40 validated non-animal alternatives. With increased awareness, we will one day have no reason to conduct animal testing.

So what can you do about animal testing in the meantime? Stop buying products tested on animals and shop “Cruelty-Free”! 

What does it mean if a product is “Cruelty-Free”?

  • Don’t conduct/allow animal testing at any stage of product development
  • The product’s ingredient suppliers do not test on animals (this is where the majority of animal testing takes place)
  • Only use newly discovered ingredients when human safety was confirmed without animal testing
  • Don’t sell cosmetic products in countries requiring animal testing (ex. any product physically sold in China is mandated to be tested on animals)

How can you tell what products are “Cruelty-Free”?

This is a little more complicated than you think. The FDA does not regulate companies claims regarding animal testing. That means a company may claim to be cruelty-free but not be! It is always best to do your own research (more on that below). However, organizations like the Leaping Bunny and PETA are making efforts towards regulating these claims.



The Leaping Bunny (pictured left) is the “gold standard” in cruelty-free. It was created by eight national animal protection groups (including the Humane Society of the United States). Its requirements for certification are the most strict and include independent audits and yearly renewal. These audits include “on-site” inspections of each company’s manufacturing facilities. The symbol is also the only cruelty-free symbol recognized internationally. In my opinion, you can trust a company is truly cruelty-free if certified by the Leaping Bunny ? Read their FAQ for more info.

  • Click here to search the Leaping Bunny’s database or download their app for your smartphone (highly recommend)!


PETA’s “Beauty without Bunnies” logo is anotherNew-BWB-Logos-295x300Old-BWB-Logo-300x188 cruelty-free symbol commonly seen. Their requirements for certification are not as strict or closely regulated as the Leaping Bunny. For a company to use PETA’s symbol, they sign a written agreement stating they and their ingredient suppliers do not currently test on animals and will not in the future. In other words, this symbol is reliant on a company’s good word. PETA makes the argument that if a company showcasing their logo is discovered to test on animals, they lose all their credibility. I believe PETA’s symbol is a good starting point but to be 100% certain it is best to do some more research.

  • Click here to search PETA’s database or download their app.

FYI: A few of your favorite products may be cruelty-free and you don’t even know it (that was the case for me)! I recommend first investigating the products you already own/love by looking for cruelty-free claims on their packaging. You can either stop there or take it a step further and reach out to these companies. It will save you a lot of time/money having to find replacements ?


To truly know a company is 100% cruelty-free it is best to contact them yourself. Some companies go into great detail what their policies on animal testing are in their FAQ so check there first.

What to ask:

  1. Do you animal-test your products or ingredients at any stage of production (from prototype to the final version)?
  2. Do your ingredient suppliers test on animals? How do you verify this?
  3. Do you commission any third parties to tests your products or ingredients on animals?
  4. Do you sell your products to countries like China that require animal testing?
  5. Are you owned by a larger company that tests on animals? (Loreal, Johnson & Johnson, etc.)

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, this company is not cruelty-free.

Where can you buy “Cruelty-Free” products?

They are not as hard to find as you may think. Where to buy obviously depends on the brand and where it is sold. I find many products on amazon and Target. There are also numerous drug-store brands that are cruelty-free!

Side Note: When I switched over to cruelty-free I also switched to using all-natural products. Many cruelty-free products are also natural. Be on the lookout for my post “Intro to Natural Products” in the near future.

Thank you for reading! I hope you found this post helpful. 

Please contact me if you have any questions or leave them in the comments section below. Already made the switch? I’d love to hear about it ?

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