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Cruelty-free vs. Vegan

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It took me a while to fully understand the difference between cruelty-free vs vegan, I was using them interchangeably as I thought they meant the same thing. I’m hoping this post will clarify the main differences between the two terms and help you to make conscientious choices that are right for you.

What’s the difference between cruelty-free vs vegan? Short Answer: “Cruelty-Free” generally implies the product was not tested on animals and “Vegan” generally implies the products does not contain any animal-derived ingredients. That means a product can be vegan but not cruelty-free and vice versa. Let me explain this in with some diagrams:

Can something be called cruelty-free AND vegan

YES, this means that the product was not tested on animals AND it does not contain any animal ingredients and by-products.

Brands that are cruelty-free AND vegan include OCC (Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics), Pacifica, Emani, and Beauty Without Cruelty.

Can something be cruelty-free but NOT vegan?

YES, this means that the product was not tested on animals BUT it does contain animal ingredients.

An example of products that are cruelty-free but NOT vegan are products from Burt’s Bees*. They have a no strict animal testing policy and is certified cruelty-free by both Leaping Bunny and PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies Program however most of their products contain animal-derived ingredients like milk, lanolin, honey, royal jelly, and carmine.

*it should be noted that Burt’s Bees parent company is not cruelty-free and is on PETA’s list of companies that do test on animals

Now this leaves us with the last option,

Can something be vegan but NOT cruelty-free?

YES – in some cases.

Some products do not contain any animal ingredients (like beeswax or carmine), making them essentially “vegan-friendly” however the ingredients or finished product may have been tested on animals.

An example is conventional toothpastes which now uses plant-derived glycerin instead of animal (fat) sources and therefore are essentially vegan however the product or ingredients may have been tested on animals.

“Accidentally Vegan” products also fall under vegan but not cruelty-free.

NO – in other cases.

This goes back to what you define as “vegan

Since there aren’t any standard definitions for the term “vegan”, some may consider a product to be 100% vegan when:

a) it does not contain any animal products

or some may call a product vegan when:

b) it does not contain any animal products AND it does not exploit animals in the development or manufacturing process, in this case.. we are talking about animal testing

So in the case that you classify the term ‘vegan’ with the second instance, then it’s important that you do a bit of research to find out what a company means when they call their products ‘vegan’.

If you’re thinking, ain’t nobody got time for dat!, then you’ll be happy to hear that there are three logos you can find on product packaging to ensure the product was not tested on animals and does not contain animal ingredients/by-products.

Three logos you can find on product packaging that verifies that the product is both cruelty-free and vegan

For further reading on what each of these logos and other “cruelty-free” and “vegan” logos and claims mean, check out this post here that explains it all!

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be! There’s no need to become a stress case over all the various labels and what they mean. Do not feel pressured to switch all of your products to both cruelty-free and vegan overnight, but instead familiarize yourself with what these labels truly mean and find a happy medium that fits your own beliefs and values. We’re always evolving and learning new things, so when you feel it’s time to do better—then do better!

Understand the difference between 'cruelty-free' and 'vegan'

47 Responses
  • Besma
    July 12, 2015

    Hi Vicky,

    Loved this post – I recently found out this was the case when scrutinising Burt’s Bees’ cruelty-free status, as they clearly aren’t vegan, and their parent company tests on animals. You can find out more here: http://www.curiouslyconscious.com/2015/05/is-burts-bees-really-cruelty-free.html

    I’m now trying to only buy natural, cruelty-free, and vegan products, although I’m not against the use of certain materials such as beeswax, and honey.

    Besma (Curiously Conscious)

    • Vicky Ly
      July 12, 2015

      Hi Hi Besma!

      I know what you mean, I’ve been going back and forth about whether to support Burt’s Bees after finding out they’re owned by Clorox! I soon realized that they have a very limited selection of vegan-friendly products as beeswax is in almost everything of theirs. I will admit that I would continue to buy Burt’s Bees if they carried more vegan products though! =)

  • Joesy
    April 22, 2015

    No coverfx is not fully vegan I’ve emailed them about this myself. You should do the same. Like two or three products aren’t vegan while most others are.

    • Vicky Ly
      April 22, 2015

      Really now? Hm.. that’s interesting! They pride themselves on being cruelty free and all vegan. We will definitely email them and see what’s the dealio! Thanks so much for bringing that up!

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