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Dove Now Claims To Be Cruelty-Free (But Here’s Why They’re Not)

There’s been an outburst of news sources stating that Dove is now cruelty-free and PETA-certified.

After running Cruelty-Free Kitty for over 4 years and researching mainstream brands masquerading as cruelty-free and PETA certifying brands with lax criteria, I had my suspicions about Dove.

A huge international brand, owned by no other than Unilever… is now claiming to be cruelty-free?

Could they have pulled out of China? Could this be the beginning of the cruelty-free movement going maintream?

Nope. Unfortunately not.

The Pre-Market vs. Post-Market Dilemma

After looking into their policy, Dove still sells certain products in stores, in mainland China:

“We have changed which products we offer to Chinese consumers. The Chinese Authorities changed regulations in 2014 and now allow for certain cosmetics products that are manufactured in China to not require animal testing, and those are the products that we will be offering.”

While it’s true that the Chinese animal testing laws changed in 2014, I’ve posted time and time again about what these changes truly entail.

In a nutshell: yes, companies can sell certain products in China with no pre-market animal testing as long as these products are “simple use cosmetics” and manufactured in China — lucky for Dove!

But China also has post-market animal testing laws, and any company that chooses to sell cosmetics in mainland China must comply with these animal tests if the Chinese Authorities deem them necessary.

This is what Dove had to say about post-market animal testing:

“Post-market testing would only be required in the rare occurrence of a serious consumer safety concern. We have requested to the Chinese Authorities that they notify us if there were such a concern, so we can withdraw the product rather than it be subject to animal testing.”

So let’s suppose there was a “serious consumer safety concern” with one of Dove’s products.

Do you really think that the Chinese government, a government so concerned with product safety that they mandate animal testing for all foreign cosmetics sold in China, would give Dove a friendly notice instead of testing the potentially hazardous products as per protocol?

Of course not.

Post-market testing is the law.

Also note how Dove doesn’t state that they’re exempt from the post-market laws. They only state that they’ve “requested” to be notified if there’s a concern. If I request to be notified by my teacher if there’s a surprise pop quiz so I can leave, I’m pretty sure I won’t be off the hook that easily.

Is Dove really cruelty-free? No. They might be making an effort in that direction, but claiming they’re cruelty-free is a misleading statement.

See Also

Nothing More Than a Marketing Claim

Unilever, Dove’s parent company, has a world-class marketing department. They’ve recently come out with a pseudo-ethical brand called Love Beauty and Planet which is a brilliant example of greenwashing and appealing to the growing “ethical” segment of the market. They’re also running massively successful campaigns for Dove that market to “all women” (or worse, “real women”).

My theory is that Dove’s “cruelty-free” act is nothing more than a marketing tactic used to appeal to ethical consumers, which is a growing segment of the market. By positioning themselves as “cruelty-free”, Dove would have a huge advantage in the drugstore as the ONLY cruelty-free brand of affordable mainsteam shower gel or soap available.

Of course, they’re not willing to let go of their Chinese market profits to truly achieve the cruelty-free status they’re looking for. Like other brands, they want the best of both worlds: the Chinese market, and the ethical market.

And Dove has the funds for these massive PR stunts. They’re partnering with reputable organizations such as Humane Society International and PETA.

Why Did PETA Approve Dove?

Truth be told, PETA’s cruelty-free list has never been the most reliable. Their criteria is lax, making it easy for brands to quickly apply and get on the cruelty-free list without much (or any) verification — even when their actual policy is ambiguous within the company.

There’s also the unknown aspects which may or may not be going on behind the scenes. Does Unilever have any financial ties with PETA? Do they donate to PETA, just like they’ve partnered with Humane Society International? There’s only speculation at this point.

Welcome To The Grey Area, Dove

If a brand pulls out of China, its status changes to cruelty-free on my website as long as they (as well as suppliers and third-parties) don’t test on animals at any point.

Since Dove still sells in China and admits to potentially subject to post-market animal testing, I’ve moved the brand to the “grey area”. This means that it’s unclear whether or not Dove tests on animals, as they’ve avoided some animal tests in China but might still be subject to others.

For a list of all the cruelty-free brands, please go here.

View Comments (76)
  • Your statements don’t add up to any kind of proof that Dove products that have been verified cruelty free by PETA are not as they claim. You ask a lot of pointless hypothetical questions (“Do you really think… If I asked my teacher…”) and expect that the hypothetical answers somehow disprove Dove and PETAs claims. I realize this making these kinds of spurious claims is what passes for factual information on blogs like yours, but this is so weak as to be laughable and does a disservice to those looking for critical free products and those who make the effort to supply them.

  • Why is it that a brand can say they are “cruelty free” and not be vegan? If there are animal products inside the product, then it is technically not “cruelty free”. Shouldn’t “vegan” be a prerequisite for “cruelty free”?

  • Simply ignoring China, a market of billion consumers, is both naive and discriminatory. By making a non-animal tested product available in that market, Unilever is bound to have more positive impact then any other brand with similar claim and PETA is aware of this. Any product/ingredient in the world could be subject to future animal testing in case of a adverse advent either by a regulatory or academic body, so with that argument nothing could be classified as cruelty free.

  • Hi. I just wanted to thank you so much for all you do. I love, love your page. I use it as a quick research guide now when shopping. Ok. Quick story time. I have always been a huge animal lover. I always thought I was doing my part from the time I was a teenager, caring, and only using products from Almay, Clinique, and neutrogena, who claim to not test on animals. (Sidenote. Sigh. I know the truth now. Getting to that part. ?) I was particularly appalled with the beagles in the recent news story, and fighting for signatures to have them released from the James River Labs, I think it was. I dont remember now because I was so horrified by the tube feeding of fungicide in the video I blasted them all over their site on fb and got myself blocke by them. With it so strongly on my mind, I ran out of.. what used to be.. my favorite mascara. Stopped by a drugstore. No almay section. I double checked with an employee on neutrogena being animal testing free since it had been awhile buying their cosmetics.. and was assured they were…?.. I decided to get a clearer understanding of all make ups in case I was in this situation again, and turned to Google. I found your site. Omg was it an eye opening experience and a plethora of info, along with heart breaking to find out NONE of them are cruelty free!!!??
    All these years I trusted them and was wrong. We are currently transitioning to 100% certified cruelty free products. And I check your site on all. I’m working on what to replace my dove bodywash and deoderant with after reading your thoughts on their “request” on “post testing”, ?, have my first tube of “Tom’s” toothpaste, an order coming from Pacifica for perfume, eye shadow, mascara, even lip balm, and am temp sustained with wet n wild that I was so happy to hear about. I use your site to educate my daughter who is now 13 and dying her hair and selected Herbal Essence sulfate free hair care, and I’m sticking with Paul Mitchell. Wish there was a pinboard for questions that come up like.. “Darn it. Best deoderant if I cant use Dove?”, “Are Shakira and Kat Von D perfumes actually cruelty free?” “Best body washes?”, “best anti aging cream?”.. I’m 40 lol, I could really use that Intel lol.. anyone offering perfume samples? Perfume most like tresor?”, and, what about laundry detergent?!?
    Any info would be so much help. And thank you so much again! I pull your lists everyday now, and feel like I am finally armed with truth. Tonight at Hollister, I had a free perfume gift .. so I asked if cruelty free, and googled.. someone said anything sold under Abercrombie is.. I still doubted and asked “ok. Is it sold in mainland China?”, the manager did not know. So I passed on my free gift. I’m sharing your site. But I feel like maybe a Facebook page for discussion, or a discussion board might be of huge benefit. I trust your site over PETA, even!!!

  • Hello,

    I have just read that China banned post-market cosmetic testing on animals this month. If so, is Dove finally Cruelty-Free?

    Best regards,


  • I’ve been looking for a product that is just like the Dove sensitive skin soap bar because that’s been the only soap my body can handle. Can anyone suggest a cruelty free brand that offers this? I have been searching for months and I just haven’t found any soap bars that are basically the same thing, but are cruelty free kitty approved. Please help!

  • Thank you so much for this. I was dubious about this when I read it and I hate unilever and don’t trust anything they say or do

  • Thank you so much I was really dubious about this when I read it..I hate Unilever and trust nothing they say or claim to do

  • Based on your logic that – if any animals are involved even after production, it is still animal cruelty.

    Then all the companies that are still using plastic on their packing should be in a grey area as well, considering many of this plastics end up in the oceans (e.i.: in a whale’s tummy or in a turtle’s mouth)

  • Dear Suzana: i don’t put too much trust in PETA either. They used to have a campaign called ‘I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur’ with different celebrities and actresses posing nude for the ads. So one day I was online and I saw that Holly Madison (one of The Girls Next Door) was gonna be in the ad that year. So PETA advertised it a lot & said that this person was an activist for animals, etc. So a few months after that they show her going to a circus (with animals!). So I wrote a letter to PETA and told them about Holly Madison being such an “activist” yet she was going to a circus to watch animals being abused. And they defended her and said that she was learning about animals and it takes time! And then I thought it was probably just a gimmick for PETA and the celebrity involved. Just for publicity so I don’t bet on PETA being so animal conscious. Thank you so much for the list and your very informative emails.

  • Thanks for clarifying this! I was very suspicious when I saw the ad and thought to myself ‘no way they have pulled their products and profits out of China!’
    I turned to google and your website came up with an article. As I use your super helpful guide all the time before buying a new brand, I hopped on over and you confirmed what I thought. Thank you so much for being so thorough and doing all this research! I direct all my friends, who are confused about which brands to buy or not, to your website. It’s such a lifesaver!

  • “Thank You” so much, Suzana for your notifcation regarding Dove and your informative post regarding the unreliability of PETA’s cruelty free list. Definitely an “eye opener”, but I’m learning.

  • Yeessss girl! My followers have been asking me for my thoughts on this and I’ve been telling them that testing where required by law, at any point, is not good enough. I’m glad Dove is making these steps, but they’re trying to have their cake and eat it too by trying to placate the cruelty-free community while still making billions in China. Not having it.

  • WOW! This is definately interesting. Ive aways looked up to this brand. Very shocked. I recently switched to Virginic actually. They’re the only ones that suit my skin as they’re not just organic but purity perfected and that to me says ALOT. If yall have any further reccommendations, feel free to shoot my way! 🙂

  • Sali Hughes in the Guardian weekend magazine just wrote “so you can now enjoy with impunity its best products” re dove. Glad I checked in with your site. X

  • Thank you for clarifying this. Are all the “statements” from Dove,on their website ? It would be great for each post if we could see the source of your information. Knowing what is your opinion and what is the brands opinion.

  • Have had the following reply on Twitter to queries about post market testing:
    Hi there, we have enacted a policy prohibiting any animal tests on our products, anywhere in the world.

  • I personally have never trusted anything from Unilever. I am not happy to hear that PETA have such a lax criteria. Thanks crueltyfreekitty I like to make informed choices.

  • Great article Suzana, really interesting. I had read the news about Dove becoming cruelty free and had thought it seemed too good to be true. Thanks so much for clarifying. Keep up the great work!

  • Two points of contention:1. My biggest outrage was when I learned that “Maybelline” was not cruelty-free since it was the first brand I used (their eyebrow pencil), as a teenager.
    2. Celebrities promoting brands that are NOT cruelty-free; including those who claim to be oh so loving towards animals. They either do not know or will represent anything for their (animal) pound of MONEY!

    If more celebs would refuse to advertise for companies that are NOT cruelty-free and promote companies that ARE
    CRUELTY-FREE this would go a very long way in stopping these inhumane practices using animals.

    It is all about MONEY!!!

  • Thank you for the info, I figured it was too good to be true. Thankfully I don’t buy Dove products and from now on I won’t be buying anything from Unilever either!

  • Suzana,
    Thank you so very much for your dedication and hard work. This is a very confusing area for the average person just starting out on the road to cruelty free living. Your site makes it easier. Again thank you.
    Wendi MacPherson

  • I thought it was to good to be true, being part of a huge multinational which usually (or always) thinks their profit is more important than the wellbeing of animals (and of other humans beside themselves, the environment etc). Thank you for clarifying this matter.

  • Hi Suzana, thanks for this post! The photo of the rabbit with the syringe breaks my heart. It’s disgusting how these brands try to brainwash us form the truth. Hearing about brands from mega companies like Unilever claiming to be “cruelty-free” is a ridiculous joke. Mainstream companies like that don’t WANT to withdraw from China, which has a seriously LARGE market. They’d rather put their money on Marketing and PR and start misleading campaigns to make us believe otherwise. What also irks me is the nerve of these brands to claim that they’re “vegan” or “organic” or “natural”. These words aren’t even defined by the law, according to FDA’s website, meaning any brand can use these words however they please (whether they’re really organic or not is irrelevant since no testing is required).

    Thanks for educating the consumers about these topics. It’s more important than ever.

  • I am glad you clarified this. I have not used Dove in about 25 years and refuse to use any product from Unilever. That company is disgusting in their cruelty and refusal to stop testing on animals

  • The Chinese government could care less about project safety. I believe they only do this to make it difficult and more expensive for other countries to import their goods. Thanks for doing this research. PETA clearly isn’t.

  • Thank you so much for the clarification! This is the same reason I quit using (sadly) Bath & Body Works products.

  • Thank you so much for the clarification! This is also the reason I quit using (sadly) Bath & Body Works.

  • As always, thank you for being up on everything and disseminating your knowledge. I don’t use Dove, but now I’ll never start!

  • I don’t trust Peta and I certainly do not trust Dove. There are products on Petas list which we know are still being tested.

  • Thank you for letting us know. I was shocked when I’d seen their Cruelty-Free claim knowing that they’re Unilever (insert skull and crossbones here) made it hard to wrap my head around. I knew it was too good to be true but still told my sister who was also surprised. I will certainly let her know the truth and I appreciate this information which prevents me from spreading lies and feeling horrible about it upon (eventually!) finding out. I also now know that your list is the only resource I can trust vs all the other (so-called) animal rights organizations…which I make annual donations to! It’s clear that my hard earned money will go so much further HERE. xoxo

  • Unacceptable and unethical behavior from Unilever! Without your indepth digging, we would have believed their lies and supported their continued abuse of helpless creatures. I’ll never again trust any company’s word without checking your site for the truth. As a dedicated supporter of PETA, my heart is breaking- I would have expected more of them. Thank you for being there for us.

  • I want to thank you so much for putting your time and energy into researching things like this and getting the truth out. You are so amazing! Keep up the great work!

  • I wouldn’t believe or trust anything they say. China doesn’t care about animals. Look at the dog and cat meat trade? It’s all horrible.

  • I had a feeling it was too good to be true, thank you so much for clarifying! I will continue to NOT purchase any Dove products!

  • Animals in China have no rights and are treated terribly. Any company that sells health/beauty products in China is not one I will patronize.

  • Thank you for this update. I was happy to hear about Dove going cruelty free, but now know for sure and will not buy their products. I will stick with ones i know that are for sure cruelty free.

  • Thank you for going into this in such detail! I’m sure a lot of people will not bother to scratch beneath the surface of this claim…luckily we can point them here!

  • Thank you for investigating this matter, Suzana! When I saw the news of Dove going cruelty-free going around, I said to myself, there is no way in hell is this true. I have been monitoring Dove forever: a chunk of my sociology dissertation looked at their underhanded marketing full of fake feminism… The Unilever company is up there with Nestle and Monsanto when it comes to false claims of safety and stroking the public’s sense of righteousness and sentimentality with sensationalized “progressiveness” that always turns out to be corporate business as usual. Thanks again for looking into it — keep up the great work!!!

  • I wouldn’t buy anything from Unilever nor would I buy Dove. Such claims are totally false as you say. I will be staying with trusted, kind products. Thank you for putting this out there.

  • Thank you for posting about this! I saw an ad about it yesterday and was hoping you or some other cruelty free page I follow would clarify. I didn’t trust the ad at all because no one I followed was excited about a big brand making the right choice.

  • I check all companies thoroughly before buying their products. Theres too many reputable cruelty free brands to even consider Dove.

  • Thank you for this post! I notified my Hungarian friends about this, so for the people who want to shop cruelty-free, but don’t speak English that well, will know about this fact!
    Even I didn’t know that there is a post-market law, fascinating :O

  • Thank You for this. It’s surprising how PETA can allow them to use their logo and be certified when PETA has always seemed so passionate about animal cruelty.

    • Peta us the worst … look at their records they kill over 90% of animals that come into their possession … NEVER BELIEVE WHAT PETA SAYS … PETA KILLS!

      • Glad to see you believe the hype and propoganda that PR campaigns put out. Center for Consumer Freedom is a huge shill for the meat industry and they’re the ones who initially started all these “PETA kills” myths. Most of the pets PETA takes in are too sick, given to them by their owners who can’t afford euthanasia for their dying animals, or animals that are completely vicious and not able to be socialized or adopted. Look up BOTH sides and make your own decision instead of allowing yourself to be brainwashed. They have done SO MUCH for animal rights; please look this up too.

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