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Earlier this month, Procter & Gamble Co., the corporate conglomerate responsible for the manufacture of everything from toothpaste to face moisturizer, announced it had joined with the Humane Society International’s (HSI) #BeCrueltyFree campaign, which seeks to ban animal testing for cosmetics in all major global beauty markets by 2023. This is certainly good news, as P&G has been notorious for blinding, burning, maiming, and killing thousands of animals such as rabbits, dogs, hamsters, and guinea pigs every year, all while testing the toxicity of product ingredients.

The media announced the news with headlines such as “P&G joins the campaign against animal testing as Humane Society International’s new partner” (Cosmetics Business), “Procter & Gamble backs the eradication of animal testing” (Yahoo News), and “P&G joins effort to ban animal testing for cosmetics” (Cincinnati Business Courier). So far so good.

Then, a headline on the vegan-friendly site One Green Planet declared, “Procter & Gamble’s brand Herbal Essences is officially cruelty-free!” Actually, no, it’s not. A look at the Herbal Essences website shows their hair care products contain ingredients that definitely come from animals, including protein from silk and honey from bees, as well as some ingredients that sometimes come from animals, such as glycol distearate, stearyl alcohol, and glycerin.

We saw something similar occur last November, after the cosmetics brand CoverGirl (which P&G owned from 1989 to 2016) stopped testing its products on animals. “Cosmetics Giant COVERGIRL Certified As Cruelty-Free And Given Leaping Bunny,” proclaimed Plant Based News. Yet CoverGirl continues to use animal-derived ingredients, including collagen, beeswax, and lanolin.

In addition to those ingredients, a beauty or personal care product could contain, for example, allantoin (cow urine), ambergris (whale vomit), carmine (crushed-up beetles), civet (anal gland of civet cats), fish scales, gelatin (cow or pig bones, tendons, or ligaments), lard (fat from pig abdomens), mink oil, pearl powder (from oysters), placenta (sheep organs), squalene (shark liver oil), or tallow (cow fat) and still earn “cruelty-free” certification from HSI or Cruelty Free International, the latter of which issues its Leaping Bunny symbol to companies that do not test on animals.

And hence the problem. When we in the animal rights/vegan movement use a term like “cruelty-free” to describe a product, others reasonably expect it to mean it is free from any cruelty—including animal ingredients.

Or human exploitation. For years, Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) has been raising awareness about the use of the worst forms of child labor, including slavery, in the chocolate industry, and calling companies—especially “vegan” companies—to task for sourcing their cacao from areas where slavery is known to be used. As F.E.P.’s founder and executive director lauren Ornelas has said many times, “Just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s cruelty-free.”

She extends this principle to exploited farm workers, as well, noting that the people who grow and harvest the fruits and vegetables adored by vegans and omnis alike are among the most abused laborers in the food system, imperiled by extreme weather, agricultural chemicals, and sexual abuse.

Let me be clear. I applaud the efforts of HSI and Cruelty Free International—neither of which implies that their certification means a product is vegan—and other organizations working to eliminate animal testing around the world; vivisection has long been a blight on humanity. But when groups, companies, or individuals use “cruelty-free” to only indicate products not tested on animals, or they ignore the human suffering that goes into “vegan” products, we dilute the meaning of the term and confuse those whose hearts and minds we are trying to win through our advocacy.*

This may sound like a trivial issue, but words matter. And as we try to help people make truly kind choices, we owe it to everyone—the animals, workers, consumers, and ourselves—to be accurate.

 

*Note: The Vegan Society’s trademark—a sunflower growing from the V in “vegan”—is used by brands internationally to signify a product contains no animal ingredients and has not been tested on animals.

 

white-rabbitTwo important comments have long been made about testing cosmetics on animals in the United States. The first is that it is an extremely cruel practice responsible for the torture and death of countless rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, and other animals.

The second is that no federal law requires it. (Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, cosmetics companies are prohibited from manufacturing and marketing misbranded or adulterated products, and they are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before those products reach the market. It does not say products must be tested on animals.) Nevertheless, manufacturers are encouraged to conduct whatever toxicological tests they believe are appropriate to substantiate the safety of their products. Thus, in an effort to cover their assets in the event of a lawsuit, companies subject conscious animals to an extensive range of painful “safety tests” in which corrosive chemicals are dripped into their eyes, toxic compounds already known to be fatal to humans are pumped into their stomachs, caustic irritants are rubbed into their skin, or an assortment of other unspeakable tortures that result in a painful death.

We can now add a third comment about testing cosmetics on animals in the US: Banning it might be just around the corner.

This week, a federal bill that would end animal testing for cosmetics was reintroduced* by US Representatives Martha McSally (R-AZ), Joe Heck (R-NV), Don Beyer (D-VA), and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA). If passed, HR 4148—the Humane Cosmetics Act—would make it illegal for any company to conduct cosmetic animal testing, or sell cosmetic products that have been tested on animals. (The US bill comes just days after a similar bill was introduced in Canada.)

I asked Pascaline Clerc, senior director of policy and advocacy of Animal Research Issues for The Humane Society of the United States, for more information about the bill and how the public can help get it passed.

Many countries around the world—including India, Israel, and the European Union—have banned cosmetics testing on animals. What keeps the US from prohibiting it?

People thought that animal testing for cosmetics was an issue of the past. Our #BeCrueltyFree campaign in the US, and worldwide with the help of Humane Society International, had to raise awareness on this issue.

There is really nothing keeping the US from prohibiting animal testing of cosmetics:

– multi-national companies have been investing in developing alternatives, and they already have to comply with such regulations in the EU and India by using faster, cheaper, and more predictive alternatives to traditional animal tests to test new ingredients.

– more than 30 countries have legislation in place banning animal testing for cosmetics.

– our neighbor Canada has introduced similar legislation last week.

– the issue has rallied bipartisan support.

– China, where animal testing is still required for imported products and for post-marketing monitoring, is slowly making progress, and our organization is actively working in the country to change policy and educate scientists on state-of-the-art in vitro methods to test cosmetics instead of using live animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs. The HSUS, HIS, and the Human Toxicology Project Consortium, in partnership with the Institute for In Vitro Sciences, provided intensive laboratory-based training.

What do you believe the chances are for this bill becoming law?

More than 30 countries—home to more than 1.7 billion consumers—now have legislation in place banning animal testing for cosmetics. Similar legislation to limit or end such testing is also under consideration in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, and now in the US. Of the 13 biggest importers of American cosmetics, eight countries have bans in place, legislation introduced or in negotiation, so if the US wants to remain a leader in the industry, the US will have to align their regulations with the rest of the world.

Multi-national companies have been investing in developing alternatives, and they already have to comply with such regulations in the EU and India by using faster, cheaper, and more predictive alternatives to traditional animal tests to test new ingredients. So, it would only make sense for them to have to follow the same regulations in the US and take advantage of cutting-edge technology.

Additionally, this bill has brought an unprecedented bipartisan quartet of sponsors.

What can the public do to help this bill pass?

There are two easy things that any consumers can do:

1st: Take action by urging your representative to support the Humane Cosmetics Act here.
2nd: Use your buying power to drive changes by only buying products from cruelty-free companies that you can find at http://www.leapingbunny.org

 

*This bill was previously introduced by former Representative James Moran (D-VA) in March of 2014. This new version focuses on economic issues and would go into effect in one year.


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