When I came home for Christmas, I got “the look” from some people when I told them that my partner and I were trying to be vegan. “The look” originates from assumptions. Rather than being a fun conversationalist and great cook, people were worried that I would start throwing red paint on them while smugly eating my vegetables and gawking at the Christmas turkey.
I still remain true to the core of who I am, but I am becoming aware that the core is increasingly cruelty-free. I do the best I can, and I certainly am not perfect, but I have heard the information I needed to hear enough times for it to resonate. Most of us don’t make big, dramatic life changes the first time we hear something. We can live for years with our heads in the sand.
One sand dune that I am currently trying to dig my way out of is cosmetics. I fully admit that most of the cosmetics I have bought in the past were for their quality rather than their ethics.
Claims can be Deceptive
It is not the easiest feat to find cruelty-free cosmetics. The degree of legitimacy depends on the label and who are making the claims. For example, a lipstick that claims “no animal ingredients” or even “100% vegan” is not telling you if they have tested on animals. Read up on eco-fashion, as the clothing industry can be similarly deceptive.
Traditional makeup often includes ingredients that participate in animal suffering. Examples include:
- Lanolin (in moisturizer, conditioner and lipstick), which is derived from the oil glands of sheep forced to live in excess heat.
- Cystine is often used in hair care products, and it is derived from duck feathers, horsehair or animal urine.
- Urea also comes from animal urine or other “secretions” and can be found in shampoo, deodorant and dental care.
I don’t know how quite to flow away from the image of washing my hair and brushing my teeth with animal urine. In any case, it gives us another impetus to go cruelty-free.
Know Your Logos
Ethical Elephant gives a good breakdown on what the logos actually mean. The pink bunny ears are verification from PETA and the outlined bunny is verified by Choose Cruelty Free. However, even these systems aren’t perfect as there aren’t auditing systems in place, requiring a trust in the applicant’s statement. There is a third bunny commissioned by Leaping Bunny that does audit, but this does not guarantee that a product is vegan.
Animal testing has been completely banned in the European Union, so this outdated and inaccurate way of determining safety is by no means essential. The FDA currently leaves it up to individual cosmetic manufacturers to employ whatever testing is “appropriate and effective” for maintaining the safety of their products. (They also support the development and alternatives to animal testing). The Chinese government requires animal testing, therefore if a product is sold in China, it cannot be considered cruelty-free.
How to Choose Cruelty-Free Cosmetics
If the thought of cute guinea pigs being exploited makes you sick, two good ways to make a difference are:
- Change where your dollars go and purchase cruelty-free make-up and beauty products. Cruelty-Free Kitty offers a detailed guide of drugstore to high-end brands that are vegan and cruelty-free. For a more exhaustive list, Peta offers a detailed list of companies that do not test on animals and companies that are working on regulatory change.
- Sign petitions that will affect animal testing in your country. The Humane Society International even has a global pledge to sign as a support to end animal testing for cosmetics.
Being cruelty-free to animals does not mean having permission to be cruel or judgmental to humans. Remember that messages need to be repeated – kindly. Advertisers know this, as the first time we see their ad we may think “Who would believe that?” yet by the tenth time, they are embedded in our subconscious.
My friends and family may have been dubious as I downed my vegan eggnog, but it is my prerogative to know a little better and do a little better every single year. While wearing a bold red, cruelty-free lip, of course.