Cruelty Free Certifications: Beginner’s Guide

When shopping for cruelty-free products, it can be difficult to know what “cruelty-free” really means. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the terms “cruelty-fee” and “no animal testing” are not regulated. This is why it is so important to check for cruelty-free certifications, and what they mean.

cruelty free certifications guide

What Does Certified Cruelty-Free Mean?

Certifications mean a brand is following well-defined standards and protocols when it comes to cruelty-free testing. If a brand doesn’t have a cruelty-free certification, you’ll need to reach out to the brand to see how cruelty-free is defined. 

The Certification Process

The certification process depends on the company a brand is seeking to be certified by. Below are some of the most common cruelty-free certifications to look for the next time you shop for products.

What Is PETA Certified Cruelty Free?

Beauty Without Bunnies was created by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). There are two tests PETA uses to certify cruelty-free companies.

According to PETA, the Animal Test-Free PETA certification is given to “companies and brands that have verified that they and their suppliers do not conduct, commission, pay for, or allow any tests on animals for their ingredients, formulations, or finished products anywhere in the world and that they will never do so in the future.”

According to PETA, the Animal Test-Free PETA Vegan certification is awarded to “companies and brands that meet the same requirements and whose entire product line is free of animal-derived ingredients. These companies are truly cruelty-free.”

Cruelty Free International

There are many organizations that certify cruelty free cosmetics. Cruelty Free International is a cruelty free advocacy organization dedicated to spreading awareness about the importance of ending animal cruelty and testing.

The company was founded in 1898 in the United Kingdom and has since then expanded into a global brand with a well known certification: The Leaping Bunny.

The brand also conducts investigations during which members of Cruelty Free International expose animal abuse and experiments. The brand has a wide following and has partnered with Choose Cruelty Free Australia, Garnier, and The Body Shop.

Cruelty Free International also has a registered charity called the Cruelty Free International Trust where donations are welcome.

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Leaping Bunny Certification

The Leaping Bunny, is a cruelty-free certification overseen by Cruelty Free International. According to The Leaping Bunny, almost all products have been tested on animals in the past, including water. Therefore, the company outlines specific standards about ingredient testing.

“Choose” Cruelty-Free Certification

Choose Cruelty-Free is now part of Cruelty Free International, meaning brands will need to be recertified. If you see a brand with a Choose Cruelty-Free certification, the brand was previously categorized based on the following criteria:

  • V: Vegan
  • SV: Some products are vegan
  • VT: Vegetarian
  • BP: No animal testing (does not include harm to insects)
  • POF: Palm Oil Free

The company issues a CCF accreditation to brands that meet the following standards:

  1. The brand must have a five-year record free of animal testing
  2. Brands cannot participate in retail markets that require animal testing
  3. The supply chain, company, manufacturers and ingredients used must be free of animal testing

According to Cruelty Free International, “Choose Cruelty Free (CCF) is now part of Cruelty Free International – and part of the global Leaping Bunny family. This merger provides Australian brands, currently certified by CCF, with an opportunity to become approved under the Leaping Bunny programme.”

More information about The Leaping Bunny Certification can be found here.

EEOC/CCPB Certification: European Organic Certifiers Council

The European Organic Certifiers Council (EEOC) does not allow animal testing. If you’re looking for organic brands that are also cruelty-free, this is a great certification to look for.

On March 11, 2013 the CCPB released the Organic Cosmetics and Animal Testing section of the CCPB website to explain why the certification stopped allowing animal testing. 

The EEOC, also known as the CCPB is based in Italy, and uses an Organic IT system and personalized inspection to certify brands.

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Are Cruelty-Free Certifications Reliable?

You can rely on clearly defined cruelty-free certifications that are linked to organizations and well documented standards. However, some brands are listed as cruelty-free without a certification, and the standards might not be clear.

If you come across a brand advertised as cruelty-free, first it’s best to check cruelty-free databases. Not all cruelty-free brands use logos on product labels.

If you still can’t find the certification, it’s best to reach out to the brand and ask for more information.

Cruelty Free Testing Methods

Cruelty free testing methods may vary by certification. For more information about specific testing methods, it’s best to review the standards available on certification websites.

Does Vegan Certified Mean Cruelty Free?

cruelty free certifications

Usually, vegan and cruelty-free certifications are considered separate classifications.

While many vegan brands are also cruelty-free, just because a brand doesn’t include animal products in a cosmetic formula doesn’t mean the brand isn’t referring to animal testing or conducting tests on animals.

Sometimes you will see a joint certification for cruelty-free brands. PETA is an an example of a brand that has a combined logo for brands that are both vegan and cruelty-free.

To ensure a brand is cruelty-free, it’s best to examine logos and certifications closely.

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