Vegan vs Cruelty-free - The important difference!

Written by Marisa Conde on Nov 04, 22

We strongly believe that the future of the beauty industry is Vegan AND Cruelty-free! But why do we need to refer to both terms, are they not synonymous? Well...It depends! Keep on reading to discover why! 

Cruelty-free means that the product was developed without any tests on animals.

Vegan means that the product does not include any animal-derived ingredients or by-products. 

This list includes well known ingredients like honey, beeswax, gelatin, yogurt and other less obvious animal by-products like lanolin (wool grease), squalene (shark liver oil), carmine (crushed-up beetles), ambergris (whale vomit) and placenta (sheep organs).

Cruelty-free VS Vegan: The Ethical Gap explained

As you can see, these definitions aren't exactly the same but, in theory, the principle behind each of them should be the same: trying to protect our animal friends and their rights, correct? The answer is the same as before: it depends

The definitions seem to yield an ethical gap:

  • Cruelty-free products, while not tested on animals, may still contain animal ingredients or by-products which would have necessitated the death of an animal. This, of course, begs the question – are these products truly cruelty-free? We believe that regardless of what your diet, none of your cosmetic and body care products needs to contain animal derived ingredients.

For example, a lipstick, especially a red one, may legally tick the cruelty-free box but contain carmine, which means that the beetles were still crushed alive to obtain these ingredients! A product obtained in this way is not vegan and, in our opinion, not even morally cruelty- free. 

Better explained:

  • Cruelty-free may only mean that the finished product is not tested on animals but its ingredients could have been tested on animals (or abused animals in some other way), at some point in their development.
  • Regardless, it is forbidden to perform animal testing on Cosmetics according to EU Cosmetic Regulations so, if you ask us, this is not a great claim, as none of your cosmetics (final product)  can legally be tested on animals. 
  • Outside of Europe, mainly in China, some brands that claim to be “cruelty-free” might have a third party to perform animal testing for them. The problem is that Chinese laws require products to be tested on animals before they can be sold in its territory. To get around this, brands just outsource the animal testing and, there you go: they can use the cruelty-free label!

To make it even more complicated:

Brands accused of green washing like (for a good reason) ''The Body Shop'' may be cruelty-free but their parent companies (Colgate-Palmolive and L’Oréal respectively) are not. The question is, do you boycott them because their owners are not aligned with their cruelty-free ethos?

Indie brands are usually Morally and Legally Cruelty-Free 

When you support small cosmetic independent (indie) brands like Primal Essence, you are not only helping your local community and economy, but also helping progressive companies to grow and push forward ethical principles and more transparent values. For sure, indie brands will not green wash you, or claim to be anything they are not!

Vegan AND Cruelty-free is even better!

When you see both these tags in a product, especially if it is from an indie brand, it means, most likely, that no animal abuse was performed in any part of the chain to obtain your beloved beauty product. In case of doubt, email the company and ask them!! If you don't get a reply...well..I would say you have your answer!