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Why Some PETA-Approved Brands Are Not Cruelty-Free (Dove, Herbal Essences)

by Suzana Rose

Jul 1, 2021

For the past few years, many big brands have been getting certified cruelty-free by PETA. These brands are owned by conglomerates such as Unilever, L'Oreal, or Procter & Gamble. I've been getting countless questions about these brands, so I'm going to sum everything up in this post. The big question, of course, is: are these brands truly cruelty-free? As you know how skeptical I am of PETA, let's dig deeper.

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The Problem With PETA-Approved Brands

Since PETA's criteria is more lax then other organisations like Leaping Bunny, I always contact brands directly before adding them to our cruelty-free list. This is because sometimes, though rarely, brands will give answers that contradict their PETA pledge.

But the big problem here, in my opinion, is that PETA approves brands that sell in China as cruelty-free. As I've talked about on the blog before, beauty products that are sold in China are at risk of post-market animal testing. This happens when the Chinese government removes products from the shelves to test them on animals.

PETA-approved brands claim to bypass pre-market animal testing in China, which is true. However, there's no conceivable, or reliable way for them to bypass post-market animal testing. This means that their products could technically be removed from the shelves in China and tested on animals.

Although using animals for post-market tests is increasingly rare in China, animal tests are nonetheless listed as a possibility in China's official regulations. In my opinion, it's hypocritical for a company to call itself cruelty-free, while willingly selling products in China, where there's a risk of them being tested on rabbits.

The Brands In Question

The brands that have getting PETA certification while also selling in China are all big brands owned by giant corporations. These brands include Dove, Herbal Essences, Aussie, Dermablend, Secret, Simple, Garnier, and Suave.

I wanted to find out which of these brands do still sell in China, but also which are truly cruelty-free. Being truly cruelty-free involves not testing on animals at any point during production, either by the brand, its suppliers, or any third parties. It also involves not selling in China, and not testing on animals where required by law.

I searched for official press releases from PETA or from the brands themselves. When the language was vague, I reached out to the brands via email or on social media. You'll find all their statements below.

Dove

Dove is sold in China.

From PETA's announcement:

"As you may or may not know, the Chinese government requires animal testing of products not made in China before they’re released for purchase in China. While we disagree with the stance they’ve taken — and we’d be happy to show them why it’s unnecessary — we nonetheless respect their position. This is why we’ve stopped importing products into China that weren’t made there."

From Dove's website:

"As a major leading brand sold around the world, Dove has taken a global stand and gone one step further. Dove has enacted a policy prohibiting any animal tests anywhere in the world: no projects are approved internally if they were to result in a requirement for animal testing of Dove products or ingredients anywhere. 

In order to achieve this milestone, Dove has made key decisions on how and what products it sells in countries where animal testing may still be a mandatory requirement, such as China. All new products Dove will launch in China in the future will not be subject to animal testing by Chinese authorities. "

Herbal Essences

Herbal Essences is sold in China.

From PETA's statement:

"And even though Herbal Essences is sold in China, where tests on animals are required for many products, the brand has worked within Chinese regulations to make sure that will never happen."

Aussie

Aussie is sold in China.

"Working alongside PETA scientists, Aussie took careful steps to ensure that its products are never tested on animals in China—a country notorious for its animal-testing requirements for cosmetics. In China, Aussie sells only domestically manufactured non–special use products, which are not required to be tested on animals."

Dermablend

Dermablend is not sold in China.

"Dermablend Professional is PETA certified cruelty-free and does not test any of its products on animals. Dermablend Professional is not sold in China."

I also contacted the brand directly to confirm their cruelty-free status. Dermablend isn't sold in China and does not test on animals where required by law. There was no mention of plans to sell to China in the future.

Secret

It's not confirmed whether or not Secret is sold in China.

I wasn't able to get a straight answer from this brand, and I didn't find any information about their presence in China. When we contacted them, we received this vague response:

"Individual stores decide which products to stock, based on customer demand, so we can't promise that a retailer will have a certain product on their shelves. If you can’t find the product you want in store, mention your interest to the store manager. It helps them decide which products to order and may lead to them stocking it in the future."

Simple

Simple is not currently sold in China, however they might plan to in the future.

This is a response from Simple's official Twitter account:

"Simple does not test on animals and has not done so for many years. We've used non-animal approaches to make sure our products are safe since we were acquired by Unilever in 2011 and no government body has performed animal testing on our behalf. Consumers in China can purchase Simple products only via cross-border channels & cross-border e-commerce, neither of which require testing by local authorities. Should we launch in China one day, we will do so in a way that does not require animal testing. We will do this by producing locally and offering only products that never require animal testing. Our parent company Unilever actively collaborates with the Chinese government to develop and apply non-animal approaches."

Suave

Suave is most likely not sold in China, however there was no clear statement made by the brand.

"The brand has worked with PETA to ban all tests on animals worldwide, including in China, where animal testing is required for many products. Suave products will soon carry PETA's cruelty-free logo so that shoppers can tell at a glance that they weren't tested on animals."

The statement above is vague, since PETA-approved brands tend to claim not to test on animals in China, even though their products are sold there.

In Conclusion

Out of all the brands above, the only brand I was able to add to our cruelty-free list is Dermablend, which is owned by L'Oreal. L'Oreal owns a few other cruelty-free brands, such as NYX, Urban Decay, and IT Cosmetics.

Brands who clearly state that they sell in China are: Dove, Herbal Essences, and Aussie. These brands are listed as "not cruelty-free" on our list.

Simple is a particular case, because although they do not currently sell in China, they open themselves up to the possibility in the future. This means Simple is also "not cruelty-free" according to our list.

As for Suave and Secret, they didn't confirm whether or not they're available in China. They're currently in our grey area.

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Suzana Rose

Suzana Rose

I created Cruelty-Free Kitty because animal testing has no place in the 21st century. My mission is to tackle ethical issues in the beauty industry one by one and find solutions for a better future.

+ Show Comments (9) - Hide Comments (9)
  • Avatar Kerry says:

    Thankyou for that information….I purposely do not buy anything tested on animals ….and I’m absolutely fuming that I have been duped …..I will not be buying anything from these companies in future and will not be buying anything other than leaping bunny products….I am disgusted in false marketing from Peta

  • Avatar Jamie Littlewolf says:

    Can you please explain to me by email possible, as I’ve gathered up all of my NYX, Too Faced, Urban Decay, LA Girls, LA Colors name ( Quite a HUGE lot) to bring back, when I saw “manufactured in Taiwan” on the back of several of the packages.

    Are you telling us that in all truthful ness you know FOR SURE that while these brands are being MADE in China they’re somehow getting under the “animal testing” radar, and that you know for SURE that they’re NOT being sold there?

    I would appreciate any help and relief you can provide me as I’m on my second night of no sleep!!

    But then I still have to ask knowing the horrors that country puts its animals through for so many other companies, should we be ok with ours being produced there at all??? YUCK!!

    Thank you,
    Jamie Littlewolf

  • Avatar Paloma says:

    I don’t get it.

    If they have the certification and have talked with the relevant authorities in order to secure no testing, how does that makes them non-cruelty free? Do they have control over those post market tests or are they imposed to do them? Does companies that are at risk of post market animal testing need to approve those testings? If they already had all relevant talks to provide and secure no testing of their brand with the authorities why would they be imposed post market testing?

  • Avatar David says:

    Thanks! Great article

  • Avatar Susy says:

    A vegan friend is recommending products from Thrivecausemetics,com and Osmia; do you have any info about these two companies?

    Thank you, your website is invaluable!

  • Avatar Calista Pinette says:

    My question is, does nobody really care about testing parent companies anymore? Urban Decay being purchased by L’Oreal is a grey area for me because UD has always been an animal champion, but anything that benefits Procter & Gamble, or Unilever, gives money to giants who fund massive animal testing both here and in China. I see that your site mentions the testing parent company where applicable, but you, like PETA, are giving these brands a pass because they don’t sell that particular line in China? I just don’t get it…

  • Avatar Colinda says:

    Hi,

    Do you know why dr.organic teatree line’ NO bunny ( black with white letters) is removed? They say also they not test on animals or sell to China. I buy their products in Holland & Barret stores and this year online.

    Can you please tell me?

    Kind regards, Colinda

  • Aly Laughlin Aly Laughlin says:

    This is such a helpful list!

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