When we see “cruelty-free,” “not tested on animals” or a bunny picture on a product label it seems safe to assume that the products in question were actually made without harming animals and may actually be the reason consumers choose these products.
Unfortunately, these labels are often misleading. Products with these labels may have been tested by other companies, in other countries, at the ingredient level or at certain stages of development making it confusing for consumers who can be duped into thinking they’re supporting an ethical product when they are not.
CHOICE, a consumer watchdog organization based in Australia, conducted an investigation and found that many companies are testing their products on animals without telling their customers.
Investigators examined 55 company websites and found that 40 percent claimed that they or their parent companies did not test on animals, but only a few had any certification from an independent third-party.
They also posed as shoppers and found that many sales people behind the counters at major cosmetics brands, including Lancome and Dior, had no idea whether animal testing was conducted and found that some falsely led shoppers to believe it had not been. One informed them that animal testing was banned around the world. Others were unaware of China’s animal testing requirements.
“Cosmetic brands need to be upfront about their animal testing whether it be on their websites, packaging or via employees at cosmetic counters. They are bound by law to give consumers the correct information and we have found many of them are not. CHOICE will be referring this issue to the ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission],” said CHOICE researcher Zoya Sheftalovich.
The ACCC can take the companies to court, ask them to change their advertising material, or impose a penalty notice on them, reports The Australian.
“Companies should be telling consumers the truth on their labels and on their websites, and properly training their sales staff. Australian consumers who oppose animal testing of cosmetics should be able to make informed decisions about which products to purchase, and this ability is being compromised across the board,” said Sheftalovich.
Unfortunately, the problem isn’t confined to Australia. Other major companies have come under fire for claiming they don’t test on animals, but have expanded into China where animal testing, including skin and eye irritation tests, is required without telling their customers. Last year Avon, Estee Lauder and Mary Kay found themselves involved in a class action suit for falsely claiming their products were “cruelty-free.”
Urban Decay was another company that decided not to expand into China after taking some major heat from its loyal customers who love its products because they’re cruelty-free.
Ethical companies that say they don’t test on animals don’t test themselves, or work with suppliers who do it for them. They should also have independent third-party certification.
The Leaping Bunny program requires companies that carry its signature leaping bunny logo to pledge not to test on animals at any stage of development and remain open to independent audits in order to stay certified. The program is managed by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) in the U.S. and Canada, while the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection manages it in the UK and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments manages it in Europe.
Finding products with its signature logo is easier than ever and choosing them sends a message to companies who refuse to give up animal testing.
To find an international list of these products, visit gocrueltyfree.com.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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