Let's talk Cruelty Free!

Posted by Meghan Young on 5th Mar 2017

One of the most common questions I get emailed to me is "Is Dreaming Tree cruelty free?" I always answer these emails completely honestly "yes" but then I get responses like "how can you use honey, or milk and be considered cruelty free?" this is where confusion between two entirely separate issues come in. So I thought I would take a bit to explain what cruelty free means to 99% of the cosmetic and personal care industry and some of the issues that are coming up as we as a nation (US) push for a federally defined standard and ban on animal testing as well as Dreaming Trees' Cruelty Free policy.

I'll start from the beginning which is first and foremost: the FDA does not define or regulate the use of the terms "cruelty free". This means there is no enforceable standard anyone can use the terms without government oversight (*see end of post).

To try and bring order to the wild, wild west of cosmetics and personal care third party organizations are trying to spread voluntary "cruelty free certifications" in exchange for place on special lists and use of logos. While well meaning the problem with these third party organizations they all have different definitions of what cruelty free means, inconsistent standards of deterring cruelty free status even within their own lists, not to mention occasional subjective bias in making determination decisions. All this does is 1) punish brands not able to or unwilling to jump through the ever changing flaming hoops even though they are doing the ethical thing and not testing on animals and 2) hurt the movement for the elimination of animal testing by confusing the consumer on the very meaning of cruelty free and by diluting it with other issues (veganism respectively).

The nitty gritty meat and potatoes of it:

The consensus with all the largest cosmetic and personal care manufactures consider cruelty free to mean simply: Not tested on animals by themselves or a third party on their behalf. That's it.

This definition is bound disappoint a lot of people, there are many strong feelings on the issue and they want to add different qualifications and standards. But if we ever want to see animal testing banned in the US we need to get behind one simple standard that the cosmetic industry itself can easily comply with. This definition makes it easy to comply especially since testing on 3d printed skin, and other non animal methods are becoming easier and more affordable for companies than animal testing with better, more accurate results.

So with really awesome alternatives available why do companies still test on animals?

There are lists determining safety of thousands and thousands of ingredients and compounds most personal care products and cosmetics are made with combinations of these ingredients and therefore the products safety is already established. But personal care and cosmetic companies are constantly trying to innovate and come up with new ingredients and compounds, some of these are borrowed from the pharmaceutical industry this means their safety needs to be determined and in the US this is where we start running into a problem. The FDA doesn’t require animal testing, but it does require that safety be demonstrated satisfactorily, though it’s hard to find a stated definition of what that exactly means and the FDA hasn’t approved many alternative testing methods that would satisfy their requirements on the safety of certain ingredients. It's a catch 22 for many companies. So we have some work to do yet, both within the government and in the market.

The other elephant in the room is China. We all know that the US economy is tanked despite what the news has told us. Consumers are out of and can't obtain credit, inflation, etc. This means as a country we're spending less on luxury goods and cosmetics. China is in something of an economic boom the people have more buying power than ever before and they want luxury goods and cosmetics. It's a proposition very hard for companies to look away from. The problem is China requires all imported cosmetics to be tested on animals so any brand trying to sell there has to comply. There is a few exceptions via a "approved" list as well as cosmetics made in China to be sold and exported to other countries do not have to be tested on animals. Some of this law is to keep China insular since cosmetics manufactured in China don't require testing. I don't see Chinese policy on testing changing anytime soon. Some US companies have started selling there and done great, but there's a lot more that haven't and have returned to US markets and some cruelty free again.

I want to go cruelty free/support cruelty free companies! Where do I start?

Awesome! But first let's have a refresher. All cruelty means to 99% of the cosmetics industry is the products are not tested on animals or tested by a third party on their behalf on animals. If you are looking for vegan products you need to ask different questions, also just because a product is vegan does not mean it's automatically cruelty free. Veganism is a completely separate issue than cruelty free.

Most companies that are cruelty free are proud of it some of them use third party logos that they've affiliated themselves with, some simply say not tested on animals or cruelty free. But if you have any doubts email the company this simple question " Do you test your products or ingredients on animals or have a third party test on your behalf?" Most companies are pretty quick to answer, there's a few that are not taking official stances because of legal proceedings or following their liability departments recommendations and give vague answers with the disclaimer of "except where required by law". If the answer feels weird to you do a little googling and that usually tells you believe what you are comfortable with. There are a lot of third party and blogger lists, these are a great place to START, they are not a be all to end all authority in this. I touched on before there is an enormous about of disparities in these lists standards and qualifications or a brand can be put on a "grey" list because they don't like how one PR rep in particular responded to their questions or they didn't get a response.

A note on "parent companies that test" Almost every major cruelty free brand is owned by a "parent company" or two or three and almost all of them test on animals, it's important to remember that even though the parent company tests on animals or sells in China it DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY mean the subsidiary company now tests on animals now too. In the case of many of these companies they are allowed to run as independent entities with separate supply lines and maintain their cruelty free status. It's important to support these companies to show the larger entities where the money is at!

So here's to the good stuff and answer that very frequent question officially.

I'd like to formally introduce you all to Dreaming Tree's Cruelty Free Kitty Merlin! If you know me you know I love my pets like family and I could never imagine testing anything I make or any other product on them or any other creature (humans are a different story).

Dreaming Tree Soapworks Cruelty Free Pledge:

I do not test on animals.

I do not have any third party test my final products or ingredients on animals on my behalf.

My suppliers do not test on animals or condone animal testing.

Animal ingredients used in our products ( only cow milk, honey, beeswax, and goats milk) are obtained ethical and responsible means for the best possible health and happiness of the animals involved that I have personally evaluated.

All creatures are safe under the dreaming tree!

This is a hot button topic and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have but to keep things civil I ask that you please email me them to avoid any hurt feelings or misunderstandings: dreamingtreesoapworks@gmail.com

*There is several cases in the court that may soon set a cruelty free precedent.