Are Cruelty-Free Products Also Vegan?

Are Cruelty-Free Products Also Vegan
*Essie Button is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Among the socially and environmentally conscious, the terms cruelty-free and vegan have become watchwords. Product manufacturers are quick to spot trends on which to capitalize. The terms cruelty-free and vegan are no different. Many consumers wonder if cruelty-free products are also vegan.

Cruelty-free does not mean a product is vegan. Cruelty-free products generally do not involve any animal testing during the development process. A cruelty-free product may contain animal by-products. Vegan means that the product is free of any animal by-products or ingredients.

Any term used in advertising is subject to varied uses. These two terms are no different. We’ll show you the nuances involved in each term. Such understanding will allow you to get a better grasp of the terms cruelty-free and vegan.

Cruelty-Free – The Animal Involvement Issue

Animal rights activists and many animal lovers campaign tirelessly against cruelty to animals. At the heart of these campaigns is the issue of testing new products on animals. Those who campaign against animal-based product testing cite many reasons.

Chief among these reasons are:

  • Better alternatives exist for testing
  • The available known safe ingredients are enough, so no new animal testing is needed
  • The move to non-toxic natural based products is a better alternative
  • Animal-testing is often more expensive than other means

A cruelty-free label is about product development and testing before its introduction to the marketplace. Cruelty-free, in its most basic use, doesn’t speak to the content of the product.

A product may be cruelty-free but not be vegan. This is usually due to the inclusion of animal-based ingredients.

Vegan and Veganism – The Animal Consumption Issue

Back to core issues. What is at the core of the terms vegan and veganism? Many experts define veganism as a lifestyle that excludes products derived from animals. For many laypeople, this implies someone who only eats a plant-based, meatless diet. In truth, the meaning goes much deeper.

Inside the Vegan Lifestyle

Those who are committed to a vegan lifestyle know that you must look much deeper into your lifestyle than what you eat.

For instance:

  • Vegans eschew wearing anything made of leather or any other animal by-product
  • Products made from animal by-products such as soap are avoided where possible by vegans
  • Animals should not suffer for humans to have any product or service. Any product tested on animals doesn’t meet the standard for being vegan

Veganism can be extremely difficult in practice. If you consider the products in our daily lives tied to animals, you begin to see the problems with living a vegan lifestyle.

  • No more wool clothing
  • No more gelatin, honey, or beeswax products
  • No more shellac for your woodworking products. (Shellac derives from insects)

How Do You Know Which is Which and What is What?

The interconnection of the terms cruelty-free and vegan can get complicated. Understanding what criteria a product meets, is often more a matter of guesswork than fact. The labeling of products in cruelty-free or vegan lacks regulation for the most part.

This problem exacerbates when the products come from outside the United States. Products manufactured in foreign countries are not subject to the rules and regulations of the United States. Whether the label claims are true on products manufactured outside the US is true is a dice roll.

There are no federal rules or regulations that govern the advertising use of either term. There are broad rules about misleading advertising. The language of these laws is open to interpretation. It is a “buyer beware” situation. The USDA and the FDA regulate ingredients and, to some extent, manufacturing processes.

Your best bet is to use products from known manufacturers with a solid reputation in the market. These are often small, independently owned firms that have grown out of the lifestyle themselves. The internet makes researching these types of companies easier.

The Nuances of Advertising – Figuring it all Out

Let’s look at the two terms, cruelty-free and vegan, to understand how they relate. In short, a cruelty-free product does not mean the product is vegan. Must vegan products, by necessity, be cruelty-free. Authentic vegan products are all cruelty-free, but cruelty-free products may not always vegan.

How Does That Work?

Cruelty-free implies no animal testing during the development phase was part of the product’s development. The manufacturer chose other forms of accepted testing to prove it is safe for humans.

Notice that there is no mention of the ingredients that go into the manufacture of the product. The cruelty-free label refers to the types of safety testing performed during product development.

The Other Side of the Terminology Coin

Vegans tend to look further into the issues. A strict vegan would avoid any product that was not cruelty-free. The vegan would also pass on products that use any animal by-product as part of its ingredients or manufacturing processes. Taken to its extreme, this can get very restrictive.

As an example, consider a cosmetic product. That manufacturer is aware of the current market trends and labels its products as cruelty-free. But closer investigation reveals that many of the products contain beeswax. Part of the product advertising focuses on the concept of “all-natural.”

A strict vegan would find the use of beeswax a negative since it exploits the bees’ hard work. One of the tenets of veganism is to leave the animal world as undisturbed as possible.

Cruelty-Free and Vegan – How Do They Inter-Relate

In short, a product labeled cruelty-free may or may not be vegan. A product labeled vegan, by definition, should be cruelty-free. Does this always hold true? Your guess is as good as mine. In today’s world, knowing for sure the provenance of the products you buy is a toss-up.

So, short of having intimate knowlege of a company, there is no way to judge whether their products are cruelty-free or vegan.

Finding Cruelty-Free and Vegan Products

Here are a few tips to help you as you shop.

  • Deal with known companies. Many organizations and websites report on products and companies that are cruelty-free and vegan. Do your due diligence before buying.
  • Be Vigilant. New companies and businesses spring up daily as the markets expand for these types of products. Look for small independent companies that are local to your area. Being able to meet the people who make the products you use is a valuable tool.
  • Communicate. Find others with your lifestyle preferences and share information. Often your best source of new products is from a friend.
  • Avoid “deals” or “discounted products”. Products labeled as “cruelty-free” and “vegan” selling at a discount are questionable.

The veracity of these claims is particularly true of brands sold on the internet. Many of these products come from countries where there is no way to verify their authenticity or accuracy.

Counterfeiting of name brands is also a problem with buying on the internet.

Final Thoughts

Shop Carefully – Don’t Be Drawn in By Slick Advertising

In the end, it is your job to know what is in the products you use, and the type of testing done. A simple glance at the label is usually not enough to give you the information you need. Take some time to identify products that meet your criteria. We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of the relationship between cruelty-free and vegan.