Cruelty free is a label that has been adopted by many cosmetic manufacturers who wish to indicate that their products were made without the use of animal testing. It is a voluntary label, and not subject to external audit or inspection. Many consumers seek out cruelty free products because they feel that animals should not be exploited for cosmetic testing.
Animals have been used to test cosmetic products for centuries, in a variety of ways. Rabbits are perhaps most infamously used, because they have delicate eyes and membranes that are employed in the Draize test, a cosmetic test in which products are applied directly to the surface of the eye and the effects documented. However, a variety of other species are employed in animal testing, which cosmetic companies claim ensures the safety of their products.
This claim is under contention from the animal rights movement, which argues that there are cruelty free ways to test cosmetics to make sure that they are not harmful to humans. Extensive education campaigns by animal rights organizations made consumers aware of the extent of animal testing and encouraged consumers to think about the hidden price of their cosmetics. As a result, customer demand caused companies to think about and use alternative testing methods.
Many companies that market cruelty free products also incorporate environmentally sustainable practices, such as the use of recycled materials for their packaging, organic botanical ingredients, and other such measures. Others also refuse to use animal products in their cosmetics, making vegan body care items totally without the use of animals. Not all choose to do so, however, and it is often possible to find inexpensive cruelty free cosmetics and body care products.
Some animal welfare organizations publish lists of companies they have audited, endorsing their cruelty free claims. Many progressive companies seek out approval by a third party, to assure their customers that the products they sell are, in fact, manufactured responsibly. Others decline to respond to requests for inspection, raising questions about their corporate practices. A growing number of cosmetic companies, including international giants, are adopting cruelty free cosmetic testing standards thanks to increased demand.
Animal welfare groups suggest that, when possible, consumers should buy verified cruelty free products, because it encourages companies who have not been endorsed to seek endorsement, and it suggests that there is a market for such products. Market demand has a powerful influence on the types of products that are sold, and each individual purchaser can make a difference, voting with his or her pocketbook for a more animal-friendly lifestyle.