The Difference Between “Vegan” and “Cruelty-Free”

While one might think the definitions of “vegan” and “cruelty-free” are the same, they aren’t. The Vegan Society defines veganism as “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment.”

Upwards of 100 million animals are used for animal testing each year. Five hundred thousand of them suffer or die for the cosmetics industry

The term “cruelty-free” pertains to products or services developed or produced without inhumane testing on animals. But in North America, there are no standard legal definitions for the terms “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals.” That means brands are free to use the language (or a random “no bunny” logo) without it meaning anything.

Cruelty-free does not mean vegan.

Products can still contain non-vegan ingredients such as dairy, honey, beeswax, cholesterol, collagen, gelatin, lanolin (from wool), albumen (egg whites), or carmine (from insects). Even though these ingredients may be in such small quantities, obtaining them may still cause harm to animals.

Even if a company goes to the lengths to certify with a third-party organization such as Leaping Bunny or PETA (Beauty Without Bunnies), most animal testing happens at the ingredient level. Companies get around this by sourcing raw materials from third parties or outside labs who do testing on animals. Even if the company has conducted no tests themselves, they may also have relied on the results of past animal tests from other organizations.

Vegans might wonder why these certifications even exist. And the only answer we have for now is that it’s a start. If you wanted to earn The Vegan Trademark offered by The Vegan Society, your products must not be tested on animals, or have been in the past.

Also, both vegan and cruelty-free products can still contain ingredients that aren’t safe for us or the environment, so it’s good practice to check labels for ingredients or other certifications to make sure what we’re buying is safe.

Fortunately, there are now reliable alternatives to animal testing, and ingredients already known to be cosmetically safe. Alternative testing methods available today are often cheaper and more effective than animal testing.

With this knowledge under our non-leather belts, vegans have the power to choose the products and brands we want to support. From food to health and wellness, shopping and other categories, you can search for vegan products on vKind and, where applicable, get in touch with these businesses to ask them about their ingredients. And if you’re on our site and can’t find an ideal option in your area, support a larger brand that is certified cruelty-free, vegan, and eco-friendly.

By purchasing products that are safe, eco-friendly, free of animal testing, and free of animal-based ingredients, we can ensure our dollars support the VegEconomy® and contribute to a kinder world for us and our world.


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