“Not tested on animals.” You might have read it on a label. You might have been told by a company that they “don’t test on animals”. You might even have purchased their products as a result, only to find out that you supported a company that was never truly cruelty-free.

In the business world, profits matter over ethics, and if a half-truth can help sell more products, brands aren’t going to think twice about it.

When you read a label that says it’s “not tested on animals”, 9 times out of 10 it’s nothing more than a marketing scheme. It’s written there because they want you to buy it. Companies know that more and more of us demand cruelty-free products every day, which is great! But it also means that we have to be increasingly careful and discerning about those claims.

Let’s also not forget that animal testing claims are not regulated by the FDA, which means that companies are free to declare anything on their labels without breaking any laws.

If you’re a beginner when it comes to animal testing, here’s what you need to know. There are different ways for a company to be involved in animal testing:

1. The Finished Products

A finished product is the final product that’s being sold on the shelf. Finished products used to frequently be tested on animals, but it’s rare for this to happen today.

Some companies have the label “Finished product not tested on animals”, which does not mean they’re cruelty-free. Other companies that don’t test finished products will simply use the label “not tested on animals”, which is even less accurate.

2. The Ingredients

Finished products contain a multitude of ingredients, some of which might have been tested on animals. If the ingredients are already considered safe, they won’t be tested on animals. However, if it’s a new ingredient, companies might want to test on animals to prove that this new ingredient is safe.

3. The Suppliers

Cosmetics companies get their ingredients (or raw materials) from one or more suppliers. Some suppliers might test on animals. If and only if a company ensures that none of their suppliers test on animals, can the company itself be cruelty-free.

4. Third Parties

Many companies claim not to test on animals, yet fail here. China is the fastest-growing cosmetics market in the world, which makes it very attractive for western companies.

Unfortunately China requires finished cosmetics products to be tested on animals for any foreign company that wishes to enter that market (read more about it here). This means that any company that chooses to sell their products in mainland China is financing animal testing there.

5. The Parent Company

While a company itself can remain cruelty-free after being acquired by a big brand that tests on animals, it’s important to emphasize that part of the profits will go to the parent company and indirectly finance further animal testing.

Most companies will look at one aspect of animal testing and use it as proof that they’re cruelty-free, while ignoring the fact that their suppliers might test on animals, or that they test on animals where required by law (in China).

This is unacceptable, and frankly it’s deceptive on purpose. We need to stand up against these marketing tactics and not let companies get away with it. Never trust the “not tested on animals” claim, and always look for further proof by researching their policy online or by asking them the right questions via e-mail. Only when a company fulfills every single criteria above can you trust that it truly “doesn’t test on animals”.

Thanks for reading!

From The Cruelty-Free 101 Series: