The 'Cruelty-Free' Part Of Your Cosmetics Is Meaningless

For years activists have been campaigning to put an end to testing cosmetics and personal products on animals, yet a large number of companies are still using critters like rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and rats to determine if products are safe for humans. Surprise: Despite raised awareness of the issue, getting gazillion-dollar companies to change their tune is a bit difficult — particularly considering they have no legal reason to do so.

Companies like Aveda, Kiss My Face, Clinique, and Almay have stopped testing on animals or never started, but PETA's list of companies that aren't "cruelty-free" is still long and varied. The list includes brands like Always, Band-Aid, Febreze, and K.Y., so even if you try to buy cosmetics from animal-friendly brands, there's still a good chance that other products you use are tested on animals. Plus, much like how the government doesn't closely regulate use of the word "organic," the New York Times reports that "cruelty-free" doesn't really mean anything. Vicki Katrinak, the administrator for the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, tells the paper, "The F.D.A. says on its Web site that companies can make any claim about their animal testing policies because there is no regulated definition of what is cruelty-free." Often companies will write on packaging that their product is "not tested on animals," but may only refer to the item itself, not its ingredients. Both PETA and the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics have tried to make labels actually reflect how the product was produced by licensing bunny logos to indicate that the company has been certified "cruelty-free" by the organiation.

Though avoiding all products tested on animals would be difficult, pressure from consumers may be key to stopping the practice because there's no legislation that prohibits animal testing. In 2009 the European Union banned companies from using animals to test for things like skin irritancy, sensitivity to light, and acute toxicity in personal care products. The only similar legislation in the U.S. is the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, which would only encourage companies to develop alternatives to animal testing, but it hasn't been adopted.

For now it's largely up to consumers who are concerned about animal testing to do their own research and lobby companies. However, there is one method of tackling the problem that sounds particularly ineffective. From the Times:

The actress Kristin Bauer, of "True Blood" fame, has an annual ritual when she visits her family home in Racine, Wis.: She takes a black marker and scribbles on the sides of specific products and cosmetics, "Tested on animals."

Defacing family members' things rather than having a rational conversation with them sounds like a surefire way to make them dismiss your legitimate point, and stop inviting you over.

Leaving Animals Out of the Cosmetics Picture [NYT]
Cruelty-Free Companies And Products [PETA]

Earlier: Cosmetics Companies Sued For Mislabeling "Organic" Products

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