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.
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.