Updated on June 8, 2023

Why No Cruelty-Free Lists Are The Same – So Who Can We Trust?

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I’m often asked why a brand isn’t on our cruelty-free brand directory when their company website says they’re cruelty-free, or they’re on PETA’s or Cruelty-Free Kitty’s database. I love hearing this question because it means caring consumers are doing their research and want to find companies that are being truthful about their cruelty-free claims.

So in this post, I break it down and explain why no two cruelty-free lists are alike. And why a company’s website may not be the most reliable source of information when verifying their cruelty-free status. This will hopefully provide you with some insight to help you make better and informed consumer choices.

Also, I think it’ll help to set some realistic expectations so that you don’t feel overwhelmed with all the different resources, lists, and certifications. Just know that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to be cruelty-free. What works for one person may not work for you.

Defining ‘Cruelty-Free’

The label ‘cruelty-free’ means different things to different people. There is no legal or official definition so every company, organization, blogger, and consumer is going to have their own definition of what makes a product or brand ‘cruelty-free.’

That also means I can’t tell you who you should trust or which lists to use over others because I’m in no position to know what’s best for you and your situation. But what I can share is my own experience and opinions about each list and resource. These are my opinions from being a cruelty-free consumer and blogger over the years.

I will be discussing whether we should trust a company’s website, third-party cruelty-free certifications, cruelty-free bloggers list, email responses from companies, and a popular cruelty-free app.

Can we trust cruelty-free claims on a company's website?

Company’s Website or FAQ page

You can often find a company’s animal testing policy and statement on their website. It’s usually in their “About Us” or “FAQ” page.

What I Like:

Going directly to the source and hearing from the company themselves on what their animal testing policy is.

Not So Great Because:

It’s usually a short and generic statement like “we are a cruelty-free company and don’t test on animals!” This is not enough information for us to consider any brand cruelty-free as it doesn’t address any of our cruelty-free criteria.

By only referring to what’s stated on a company’s website means we’re trusting the same people who are trying to sell us their products. Keep in mind that no company will come out and say that they test on animals. Instead, animal-tested brands will usually say something like “we don’t test on animals, unless government officials require it.”

Can we trust third-party cruelty-free certifications?

Third-Party Cruelty-Free Certifications

Leaping Bunny and PETA’s cruelty-free certifications are among the most popular accreditation for cruelty-free cosmetics, personal care, and household cleaning brands.

What I Like:

Cruelty-Free certifications like Leaping Bunny and PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies Program provide a level of assurance because someone other than the company is looking into and substantiating their cruelty-free claims.

Not So Great Because: 

These certifications are voluntary. A company must choose to apply and go through the process to be certified and listed on PETA’s or Leaping Bunny’s cruelty-free database. Many beauty brands choose not to apply, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not cruelty-free.

That’s why there’s only a limited number of brands on both lists and they’re not complete lists.

Also, something to note is these third-party cruelty-free certifications charge brands a licensing fee so although they’re non-profits, it’s still a business model where they’re making money off of certifying brands.

Can we trust cruelty-free bloggers cruelty-free brand lists?

Cruelty-Free Bloggers List

If you’ve ever Google’d to find out if a brand is cruelty-free, you may have stumbled upon a cruelty-free bloggers’ website.

What I Like: 

I’m biased here because I’m a cruelty-free blogger myself. But most cruelty-free bloggers start out as being a cruelty-free consumer first. We reach out to brands to verify their cruelty-free status because we also want to know. And then we share what we find out by publishing responses and helpful lists.

What makes us different from official third-party certifications like PETA and Leaping Bunny is instead of waiting for brands to voluntarily come to us, we reach out to them. That’s why you’ll often find some brands on cruelty-free bloggers lists and not on PETA or Leaping Bunny.

Not So Great Because: 

Blogs are independently run by humans, they’re not official organizations. As a result, our findings are based on our own interpretations of the company’s responses. Some bloggers do more in-depth research than others. And then there are some blogs that are strictly created to make money. (Hint: if you see a lot of Amazon links or an excessive number of ads on their site, they’re most likely not doing it for the animals.)

At the end of the day, it all goes back to how each blogger defines what ‘cruelty-free’ means to them. That’s why we’ll see brands on some lists and not on others.

Can we trust cruelty-free apps?

Cruelty-Free Mobile Apps

Cruelty Cutter is a popular mobile app that many cruelty-free consumers rely on and use while they shop.

What I Like:

It’s super convenient where it lets you search, browse, and scan products while on the go to identify which brands are cruelty-free or not. It’s also created and operated by The Beagle Freedom Project who claims to conduct its own independent research and request statements from brands while comparing its data with cruelty-free authorities.

Not So Great Because:

The app itself hasn’t been updated since 2018 and recent user reviews say many are experiencing bugs and problems using the app. In addition, they don’t have much information about their official cruelty-free standards or criteria.

When you have no one to trust, email companies to verify their cruelty-free claims

Contact the Company Yourself

Additionally, consumers can contact and email the company to ask about their stance on animal testing.

What I Like:

You’re in control over the type of questions you ask brands when confirming their cruelty-free status. This allows you to establish your own cruelty-free standards and speak with someone directly from the company instead of through a third party.

Not So Great Because: 

This can be incredibly time-consuming and tedious. Sometimes you won’t hear back from a company for weeks or at all. And you might get inconsistent responses from the same company as there is more than one person that answers company emails.

What Now?

As you can tell, there isn’t a cruelty-free list or resource that is universally better or more comprehensive than the others.

It really just comes down to their standards, criteria, and how that information is being delivered. I like to advise cruelty-free consumers to use and cross-reference multiple cruelty-free lists.

If you see a brand listed on multiple cruelty-free lists, then that’s usually a good sign. And if you can’t seem to find a brand on any list but the brand claims they’re cruelty-free on their website, you may want to contact the company directly to ask for more information.

Some helpful cruelty-free resources to check out:

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