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The Sad Truth Behind MAC’s Misleading Cruelty-Free Claims

by Suzana Rose

Mar 7, 2020

MAC used to be cruelty-free. In 2012, they lost their cruelty-free status when they started selling in China, which required for them to pay for animal tests to be performed on their products.

Spread the word.

Unfortunately, they refuse to own up to their decision and they keep misleading customers to this day. It's infuriating to witness these huge companies mislead their own customers using clever phrasing and buzzwords.

So, let's break down the cruelty-free statement on their website and set the record straight.

On MAC's official site, if you scroll to the botton, you can find a link titled "Animal Testing" in the "About" section.

Sounds promising. Will they own up to the fact that they haven't been cruelty-free since 2012? That they agreed to fund animal tests in China?

Not at all. Instead, we're greeted with this page:

First, the big bold headline:

"Working Toward a Cruelty-Free World"

This is blatant manipulation. They're trying to make their brand look like the good guy, and they're implying that they're cruelty-free. If MAC is "working towards a cruelty-free world", we would tend to assume that they must be cruelty-free.

But logically, it's not necessarily the case. Just because they're working towards a cruelty-free "world", does not mean they're cruelty-free themselves. It's clever wording to give the illusion of being cruelty-free.

"M·A·C does not test on animals. We do not own any animal testing facilities and we never ask others to test on animals for us."

It's true that the company itself doesn't test on animals or own any animal testing facilities. However, the same can be said for most cosmetics companies. Animal testing for cosmetics doesn't occur at the company-level. Most often, it's done by third-parties or suppliers.

MAC also claims that they don't "ask others" to test on animals on their behalf. Well, I didn't ask for that spider to be on my shower curtain the other day, but it happened regardless.

Claiming that they don't "ask" others to test on animals is a trick companies use. It makes them sound ethical, but it's meaningless.

"While some governments conduct animal testing to prove safety before they will allow us to sell our products, M·A·C has never tested on animals and we continue to be a leader in the movement to end animal testing globally."

MAC is talking about China here. Notice how they didn't claim to sell their products in China, or to fund animal testing in China. They're shifting the blame towards "some governments". "Some governments" perform animal testing, but definitely not MAC. Haven't you heard? Mac is working towards a cruelty-free world!!! (/sarcasm)

"To this end, we are proud to partner with IIVS (INSTITUTE FOR IN VITRO SCIENCES) to expand the use and acceptance of non-animal testing methods worldwide."

And this is how they're getting away with claiming to be "working towards a cruelty-free world". Because Estee Lauder is partnering with Cruelty Free International and IIVS not to go cruelty-free, but to position themselves as an ethical company. I already covered how misleading this campaign was.

They also go on to answer some frequenty asked questions, most of which nobody asked.

"Which countries require animal testing? China tests on animals as part of its safety assessment of cosmetic products."

Once again, they try to distance themselves from being "the animal tester". China tests on animals! Not MAC!

"We love our fans and we never want to exclude them anywhere."

They're trying to appeal to our emotions. The truth is, many brands are remaining cruelty-free by selling to China online-only, which doesn't require animal testing. What MAC meant to say is: "We love maximizing profits regardless of the ethical implications, so the best option was to torture bunnies in order to be sold in stores."

"How does M·A·C test its products for safety and efficacy? We use human volunteers and we conduct or commission in vitro testing."

As most brands do.

"Does M·A·C own any animal testing facilities?
No. We don’t own any animal testing facilities anywhere in the world."

Most brands don't.

"What is the Institute for In Vitro Sciences?"

"The INSTITUTE FOR IN VITRO SCIENCES (IIVS) develops and implements programs in countries where in vitro testing is not accepted in order to educate scientists on the scientifically validated safety record of these methods. We are proud to announce a new partnership with the INSTITUTE FOR IN VITRO SCIENCES (IIVS) to help ensure that alternative testing becomes the global standard. By funding IIVS’s International Outreach Program (IOP), we are working to make a difference. The IOP provides a wide array of support including technical assistance in the form of lectures, workshops and hands-on training sessions to countries that rely on animal testing to determine the safety of products or ingredients."

What exactly does the partnership involve? How much is MAC funding them? What have they achieved? Is bragging about "working towards a cruelty-free world" part of the deal?

Of course, doing something to end animal testing in China is better than doing absolutely nothing. But the best course of action, for a huge company such as Estee Lauder (which owns MAC, Bobbi Brown, Clinique and other known brands), would have been to stay away from China until the animal testing requirement is lifted. That's what being a cruelty-free company is about.

So MAC, your efforts to deceive your customers might be paying off right now, but the more people expose your tactics, the more tarnished your public image will be.

If you're looking for a MAC alternative, try Anastasia Beverly Hills, Illamasqua, Hourglass, Becca, Milani, or any of the 15 brands below. Thank you for reading, and feel free to share the infographic below or this post on social media!

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

+ Show Comments (5) - Hide Comments (5)
  • Linda Miller says:

    The Animal Testing part is left out of their “About Us”.

  • Sophie says:

    Thank you for this article!
    It was very informative and easy to read!
    Also loved the sarcasm!

  • Olivia Pickering says:

    I absolutely loved this post, thank you! I will be using it in my university seminar this week as an example of a misleading corporate communication campaign.

  • Marianne says:

    Hi! Thanks for this enlightening post.

    Could you please clarify how the L’Oréal owned brands you recommend at the end of your article are better than M.A.C.? I’m specifically thinking of brands like NYX, owned by L’Oréal Group and therefore testing on animals as the groups sells in mainland China.


    • Suzana Rose says:

      Hi Marianne, thanks for your comment! If the brand itself is cruelty-free, I recommend supporting it. It’s a separate entity even in the context of the parent company. If we boycott L’Oreal’s non-CF brands and support their cruelty-free brands, we’re getting the message across that cruelty-free is important, and they’re going to notice this if enough people shop this way.

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