Veganism is one of the most debated topics in lifestyle in the world today.
Awareness has never been higher as more and more people are starting to care about what goes into their products. One common notion is that ‘vegan’ and ‘cruelty-free’ are synonymous and hence are used interchangeably. While there is a big overlap between the two, they are not the same. And for those who wish to lead a vegan and cruelty-free lifestyle, knowing the difference is imperative. Because, ultimately, whether or not your lifestyle is vegan and cruelty-free boils down the products you choose to consume.
According to The Vegan Society, “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
A vegan only consumes products that are made without a single ingredient derived from animals. That means no foods that contain meat, fish, poultry, dairy or honey, just to name a few. That also means no beauty and cosmetic products that contain milk, honey, beeswax, gelatine, placenta, and carmine among other anima-derived ingredients. Furthermore, no fur or leather furniture, clothes or fashion accessories.
In essence, a product is defined as vegan by the list of non-animal-derived ingredients that makeup the final product itself. This makes such a product cruelty-free too, right? Unfortunately, no. There is more to a product than meets the eye. If a vegan product is tested on animals, it is not cruelty-free, even if it is vegan! So, what makes a product cruelty-free? There is no universal definition, but simply put, a cruelty-free product is one that does not involve the harming of an animal in any capacity in the making of the product itself.
The tricky – and unfortunate – part of trying to live a cruelty-free lifestyle is that there are no official laws that define what makes a product cruelty-free. This enables brands (mostly in beauty and cosmetics) to come up with their own definitions of cruelty-free. For instance, a brand can claim its product is cruelty-free even if an ingredient(s) has been tested on animals, as long as the final product hasn’t. Or, if the brand has outsourced animal testing to a third party, or developed its product using the data of another company’s animal testing results.
What all of this means is it is likely you are vegan but not cruelty-free. And if you have chosen to lead a vegan lifestyle for compassion reasons, avoiding meat and dairy simply doesn’t cut it anymore. There is so much more to it. It isn’t easy to know whether the products you use are vegan as well as cruelty-free due to corporations bending the rules to their advantage.
However, on the bright side, there are several brands out there that genuinely believe in being vegan and cruelty-free. And to ensure their products are one hundred percent vegan and cruelty-free, and to help us consumers easily identify these brands, are a set of animal protection organizations that standardize the requirement for a product to qualify as vegan and cruelty-free, dig extensively into the makings of said product and officially label them as vegan and cruelty-free for our identification.
PETA and the Leaping Bunny Program are the leading organizations in the world for vegan and cruelty-free labelling respectively. Getting certified by these organizations guarantees to us that a brand is one hundred percent trustworthy and its values are aligned with those of the vegan and cruelty-free lifestyle.
To sum up, it doesn’t just matter what goes into a product, it also equally matters how the product is made. While organizations like PETA and the Leaping Bunny Program make our lives much easier, it is up to us to do the hard work of educating ourselves on these subjects so we can uphold our own values of life. Because, ultimately, whether or not our lifestyle is vegan and cruelty-free boils down the products we choose to consume.