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.
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 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 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 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 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.
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 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.”
As of 2020, Garnier is sold in China according to their Customer Service.
I found several articles stating that Garnier has pulled out of mainland China in 2014 due to low sales. However, when I contacted the brand, they gave me their full animal testing policy which included the following statement:
“Today the products manufactured and sold in China called “non-functional” such as shampoo, body wash or make-up are already no longer tested on animals.”As of 2020, Garnier claims that they do sell products in mainland China based on the answer above. This contradicts Garnier UK’s website statement, where they claim not to sell in China. The statement on their website might be outdated, and therefore misleading.
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.
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. Garnier also stated that they sell in China, however there are some contradicting (but potentially older) statements. 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.