What does cruelty-free mean? And what is that bunny symbol for?

What does cruelty-free mean? And what is that bunny symbol for?

There are several things that a makeup or skincare products needs to do or be in order to make it into my makeup kit.  It needs to have exceptional performance. look gorgeous when applied and it needs to be cruelty-free!

I’m not going to get into the specifics of animal testing – there are plenty of resources out there if you want to look into it more. 

And for full disclosure – I’m not vegan, or even vegetarian. 

There’s no legal definition of ‘cruelty-free’ in the cosmetics world, but in general use cruelty-free is considered any product (or brand) that where the finished product AND the ingredients are not tested on animals by the manufacturer, and where animal testing is not conducted by others where required by law.*

Vegan products, on the other hand, are any products that do not contain any animal-derived ingredients and can be called vegan whether they test on animals or not.   Hmmmmm.

There’s a bit of discussion going on in the beauty circles about whether brands that contain animal-derived ingredients (beeswax, lanolin or carmine for example) can call themselves cruelty-free if they don’t have their products tested on animals. You’ll have to make up your own mind on that.

To add to the confusion there are brands that do not test on animals themselves but have chosen to sell their products in mainland China, where the government requires all skincare and cosmetics companies who produce cosmetic products outside of China to submit samples for animal testing before being allowed to sell them there.*

I can already hear some of you asking “why would companies do that if they know their products will be tested on animals?”  China is the largest cosmetics market worldwide and is estimated to be worth over $38 billion AUD annually.  Given that Chinese consumers tend to prefer products that are created outside of their country it’s easy to see how some companies have made their decisions to sell there.

(*Interestingly though, products that are manufactured in mainland China are not required to undergo animal testing, and products can be sold online in mainland China without needing to be tested).

We need to be aware, as well, that pretty much every ingredient that was created for cosmetics in the last 50 years was probably tested on animals at some point in it’s history.  Once an ingredient was tested by one company it was able to be used by others without further testing.

Which countries have banned animal testing?

There are around 40 countries that have banned animal testing (as at 2019) – the EU introduced bans in 2013 with other countries slowly following.

Australia recently introduced legislation to ban animal testing from 2020.

So what can we do about this all?

If we can learn one thing from the China example it’s that money talks.  If, as a consumer, you feel that it’s important to send a message to the beauty companies you can choose cruelty free and/or vegan products.  

How can I be sure I'm choosing a cruelty free product?

There are several different bunny logos that you can see on products and in stores which are there to indicate cruelty free products.

The three main bunny logos (and what they mean) are below:


This is PETA’s certification and probably the most well-known of the certifications.

in order for a company to be accredited they must submit a questionairre and sign a declaration that neither they, or their suppliers test on animals.

PETA does not verify or monitor these claims and do not require any written proof that no testing is conducted at any stage of the production process and once approved they are not required to re-certify regularly 


The Leaping Bunny is an internationally recognised certification.  In order for a company to become Leaping Bunny Certified they must  submit proof that they, and all the companies in their supply chain, comply with their no animal testing policies and that none of their finished products are sold in markets that require animal testing.

Companies who wish to remain certified must recommit to their policies annually and audits may be undertaken to ensure that they are meeting the Leaping Bunny standards.

Choose Cruelty Free (CCF) is an up and coming Australian not-for-profit organisation that has stricter requirements than the others.

As well as the company not testing their products on animals, they don’t accredit as CCF when the parent company or any other associated company doesn’t meet the standards.

All suppliers need to submit written confirmation that none of the ingredients supplied are tested on animals, and the company seeking certification signs a legally binding contract stating that their statements are true

Because certification is voluntary, not every company that follows cruelty-free practices is certified, but you can see a regularly updated list at www.crueltyfreekitty.com

Whether you choose cruelty free, or vegan, or not, knowing what these little bunnies mean, and the differences between them means that you can make an educated choice. 

Want to learn about some of my favourite cruelty-free brands?  Leave a comment below.

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Sally is a makeup artist, a beauty junkie and a coffee addict, who loves finding new products and techniques and using them to give her clients an amazing experience – every time.

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