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Why PETA’s Cruelty-Free List Can’t Be Trusted

by Suzana Rose

Nov 17, 2020

I've seen many, many cruelty-free consumers relying on PETA's list of cruelty-free companies to determine whether or not a brand is cruelty-free. I want to make it known that PETA's list isn't the ultimate cruelty-free source, unfortunately.

Spread the word.

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Just because a brand is listed as "does not test", doesn't mean it's truly cruelty-free, and just because a brand isn't listed on the "does not test" list, doesn't mean it can't be cruelty-free.

I want the information that's found on this blog to be as accurate and up to date as possible, and given my recent findings, I can say that PETA's list has lost its credibility to me.

As you might know, in order to be on PETA's cruelty-free list, a company has to "sign PETA’s statement of assurance or submit a statement verifying that neither they nor their ingredient suppliers conduct, commission, or pay for any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations, or finished products." If you haven't read it already, please check out my post on Leaping Bunny vs. PETA.

Rusk is one of the many companies found on PETA's list, and has therefore signed that statement. Here is my correspondance with a representative from Rusk.

Kitty <crueltyfreekitty@gmail.com>:
"I have read that RUSK products are cruelty-free and are therefore not tested on animals. I would also like to know if the ingredients used in your final products are tested on animals.
Thanks in advance!"

On Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 3:15 PM, Linda Bryan <Linda_Bryan@conair.com> wrote:
Dear Kitty,
In response to your email,
We are a long-standing member of the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) and strictly adhere to their Consumer Commitment Code. We do not test our finished products on animals. We do not require or ask our suppliers of raw materials used in our products to perform any testing on animals.
Thank you for your inquiry,

Hello Linda,
Thank you for your reply. I only have one more question: while I understand that you don't require it, can you confirm that none of your suppliers test on animals?
Thanks in advance,

Dear Kitty,
In response to your email,
No – we can’t.
1) We do not require our suppliers to test their ingredients on animals, however, they might have need to be tested for some other non-cosmetic use.
2) Even though ingredients used on cosmetics are not required to be tested on animals when the finished product is sold in the US or the EU, there may be other countries that do require such testing, and we can’t control that.
3) There are many ingredients that have a long history of use, and their use would predate any such concern.
I hope that this will help you.
Thank you for your inquiry,

Ouch. Rusk seems to be one of the many so-called "cruelty-free" companies that "definitely don't test on animals, ever, unless--".

A company that encourages animal-testing by buying ingredients that have been tested on animals is NOT a cruelty-free company. The fact that such a company can so easily be added to PETA's list is appalling, and unfairly misleading to the multitude of people who rely on it to find cruelty-free brands.

The fact that a company can be included in such a trustworthy list by making nothing more than what's equivalent to a pinky promise is alarming.

If you're looking for a cruelty-free salon brand, I recommend Paul Mitchell. They're certified by the Leaping Bunny and offer great products.

If one occurrence of this isn't enough, here's another example: Smashbox, who are owned by Estee Lauder but are on PETA's cruelty-free list, sell products in China and have confirmed to be testing on animals when the law requires it:

We don’t test on animals, nor ask others to test on our behalf, except when required by law.

This company is still on PETA's cruelty-free list even though they lost their cruelty-free status when they started selling in China long ago. Not only that, but they have the guts to proclaim themselves as a "100% cruelty-free company" who would never harm a fly. Ugh! PETA needs to step its game up if it wants to regain our trust.

Update: In 2020, please note that Smashbox no longer tests on animals where required by law and has pulled out of China. However, at the the time Smashbox was listed on PETA's list, they were actively selling in mainland China.

From The Cruelty-Free 101 Series:

Which Brands Are Cruelty-Free?

Download our list of 600+ verified cruelty-free brands straight to your device. Bring it with you everywhere you go, and never worry about supporting animal testing again. Click here to download

Don't Be Fooled
+ Show Comments (32) - Hide Comments (32)
  • Kate says:

    I’ve decided to go 100% cruelty free this year and I’m just now learning about PETA’s shady requirements (although it’s PETA, are we really surprised they’re unreliable?). I noticed on your master list of all approved cruelty-free brands some of them are only approved by PETA. Have you done extra research to confirm these brands are actually 100% cruelty-free or should I also be wary of those only approved by PETA on this list?

    • Suzana Rose says:

      Yes, we reach out to all brands that are approved by PETA directly and make sure they answer all our questions.

  • yolanda says:

    Hello, I fell in love with your information, I wanted to know if there are Korean brands free of cruelty. Where can I know, I would like you to help me.

  • Anja says:

    Dear Kitty,

    I can´t find if brands: Milk, Essence, Catrice, Nyx and Alverde (in DM/Europe) are tested on animals or not? Some of them are in Peta´s list as cruelty free, but it seems only some products and not all of them are not tested on animals. And the thing which concerns me is that none of them has a certification on their wepage- so I don´t know if to buy their products or not. Can you help me , please?
    Thank you so much for your answer and the dedication for the truth you search for here. I am realy happy I found out this page. 🙂

    • CFK Team says:

      Hi Anja,

      Milk Makeup (certified by Leaping Bunny), Essence, Catrice, and NYX (certified by Peta) have all been vetted by Cruelty Free Kitty and we have confirmed they are cruelty-free. Please check out our Cruelty-Free Brand page for more information.

      Thank you!

  • Anja says:

    Very very helpful article, thank you so much Kitty for all these informations! :)))

  • Connie Fowler says:

    I really appreciate your diligence in presenting us with this education. I learned a long time ago that you have to really pay attention to the wording in advertisement. I have just joined the cruelty-free movement in everything I buy now. Thank you so much.

  • Barby says:

    OMG-I’m sure that if all the outside companies were no longer available in China until they changed their poilicy?- No pressure just no thank-you. The people there would feel like they were missing out or secludedw/o their go-to favorites. Might be enough to start a movement to push against animal tesing? Imagine what the beauty world could accomplish together? THAT WOULD BE A REAL LEGACY TO BE PROUD OF!

  • Spring Waters says:

    Wow this is so disappointing, I’ve been vegan 5 years and always checked peta – glad I finally found this article!

  • nat says:

    I don’t trust peta. I have been buying wet n wild which is on peta’s list and then I email wet n wild and ask them to join leapingbunny and they won’t ELF is on petas list too but was taken off of leaping bunny site even though years ago they were on the list. shady companies!!!!!!

  • Andrea says:

    Thank you so much for being so thorough about the honesty and bs of all the companies out there. There is so much conflicting info online and Peta’s list no longer includes the parent company in their search results. I used to be able to search for a particular company in their database, and if the was company was cruelty-free but the parent company wasn’t, like Smashbox, it would tell me. But for some reason, the results no longer include this just-as-important info. So people don’t realize that while they are buying cruelty-free products, they’re still contributing to the animal testing policies of the parent company. It’s very frustrating, especially when I’m shopping and have to spend several minutes verifying Peta’s info. Thank you for making it clear and easy to find out – and for standing up for animals!

  • bystander says:

    In order to get EPA approval for any chemical to be used in products which would go eventually down the drain (as when you wash it off) with the potential of finding its way into streams, rivers and lakes, there are certain governmental requirements which include testing what percentage (or concentration) in the water would cause injury or death to aquatic creatures.The EPA’s “OPPTS (Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances) 850.1075 Fish Acute Toxicity Test, Freshwater and Marine” defines requirements for testing on what would poison fish. Data on a cold and warm freshwater species are generally required. The rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, and bluegill sunfish, Lepomis macrochirus, are preferred species to meet this requirement. The goal of the definitive test is to determine concentration-response curves for fish mortality, the LC50’s, and the 95 percent confidence intervals for each species tested at 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours in a static, static-renewal, or flow-through system. The LC50 means the concentrations of the chemical that kills 50% of the test animals during the observation period. Here is a link that describe these test requirements: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-07/documents/850-1075.pdf

    Of course, the purpose is to prevent chemicals which will kill our aquatic wildlife. And the policy is evidently that you have to kill a few in order to protect the rest.

    I think that we all agree that fish are animals too. Do they count in cruelty free considerations?

  • I just wanted to take the time to say thank you – for this post and for this whole site!
    More and more over the past months I’ve wanted to start moving into only using cruelty free cosmetics and every time I’ve sat down to look into it, I’ve ended up on the PETA site while also reading totally conflicting information elsewhere! It was frustrating and upsetting and led me to feel that there was no way I could ever go cruelty-free as it just seemed impossible!
    Now I’ve found your site and I’m so excited and totally onboard with cruelty free – thank you so, so much. (Also, I took the name of your website to be a bit of a sign for me 😉 )

  • Ruby Kooner says:

    Just a question.. your list of 2016 cruelty free brands includes “Cover FX” which is the same company as MAC.. as of 2012 MAC resumed animals testing.. question is: is it certain that cover fx products don’t use animal testing?!

  • You should report RUSK to PETA as they require that even ingredients are not tested on animals. By the way, in the EU animal testing on personal care, cosmetic and household products is now illegal and that refers to the ingredients as well.

  • mansi bhagwate says:

    Saw Burt’s Bees ads on your blog. I know that Burt’s bees is not tested on animals but it is owned by Clorox Company and I think they DO test on animals even if its rare and are trying to move away from animal testing but haven’t completely. So you are complaining about PETA yet advertising for another company that isn’t 100% vegan or cruelty free?

    An excerpt from the Clorox website:

    “Clorox is committed to the welfare of animals. The vast majority of our products reach the market without testing on animals. In fact, using non-animal product safety evaluations is the norm at Clorox and animal testing is the very rare exception. We do not conduct or ask third-parties to conduct any animal testing on products, raw materials or components of finished products unless required by federal or local regulators. And we will not license our name or the name of any of our brands to formulations of products that have been tested on animals. We will not acquire or purchase product formulations or other products for use in our consumer products that have been tested on animals (except when such testing was done to meet the requirements of federal, state, local or other applicable regulations).

    The rare exception to this policy is only when all other efforts have been exhausted to establish a product’s safety profile; such exceptions require senior management approval, certifying there is no other way to proceed. In those rare instances, Clorox will conduct appropriate safety testing at an independent laboratory accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC). AAALAC promotes standards of animal welfare that exceed federal law and conducts regular inspections of their accredited laboratories.

    We’re working toward a future where animal testing has no role in product development. We believe that we should be able to use existing data and alternatives so animals are not involved in product safety testing. We are engaging regulators to join with us to identify and implement innovative solutions that eliminate the existing requirements to conduct animal testing, without compromising product safety. In collaboration with industry partners, we’re working to foster new protocols and encourage regulatory acceptance of alternatives to conventional animal testing, particularly in the area of public health disinfectant products. Since 1987, we have been working with organizations such as the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing and the Institute for In Vitro Sciences, an independent foundation, to develop alternative testing methods.”

    • Jazmin Vergara says:

      Burts Bees is one of those brands that claims to be cruelty free, but they sell their products in China, and as we know, they require pre-market testing, that is testing a product on animals to ensure ‘its safe for human use’ before its put on shelves. Burts Bees continues to claim that their products are not tested on animals and it is despicable as well as misleading.

  • minxlj says:

    Why is there a later article on this site that includes PETA in the ‘trustworthy logos’ then? (unless the logos aren’t awarded to companies who later sell and test in China…) https://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/cruelty-free-101/cruelty-free-bunny-logo/

  • Babette la Rouge says:

    I can recommend the following site to you (they are very, very accurate!): http://wermachtwas.info/index.php?pageID=4

  • Amy says:

    I would like to know if Organix tests on animals. I see conflicting info online. Their bottle says no animal testing ut I saw some stuff saying it does.

  • Mischa says:

    Thank you for writing this! I had a similar experience with Josie Maran Cosmetics recently. They confirmed that the dye in their lip creme was NOT vegan (meaning it probably contained cochineal insects for coloring) and yet they kept repeating that they are a cruelty-free brand. It’s shameful.

    • Jojo Barnett says:

      Josie Maran is a cruelty free brand. Their lip creme that you purchased is not vegan. Cruelty free =/= vegan

      • joe says:

        Veganism implies crueltry-free and vice-versa. A vegan product is not just done without animal in it or something that comes from an animal, a vegan product is done without animal explotation.

        • Jess says:

          Although this is implied, veganism is technically about not consuming or using anything that contains animal products, that’s it, so something that does not contain animal products but was tested on animals would still fall into that definition.

  • Anne-Marie says:

    your website has helped me a lot, i always knew there was something off about PETA’s list. Some products aren’t listed like Bareminerals and Skin Food. Thank you so much! <3

  • Ashly Rae says:

    Thanks for sharing!!! great article.. glad I found your blog x

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