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Cruelty Free Standards Explained
How do you know if a company is truly free of animal testing? Here are the world standards that identify reliably cruelty free companies:
Leaping Bunny Standard: The standard in the US, Canada, and the EU. The technical name in the US and Canada is Corporate Standard of Compassion for Animals; and in the EU, it's the Humane Cosmetics standard. Because of the logo, the shorthand name is the Leaping Bunny standard and that's the term we use here - the image is easier to remember!
The Leaping Bunny standard and Choose Cruelty Free standard are similar, with the Choose Cruelty Free standard slightly stricter. Both are strong standards, and are your best assurance that a brand doesn't test on animals at any stage of development.
Leaping Bunny Standard
To receive Leaping Bunny certification, a company's products and the ingredients used in those products cannot be tested on animals by anyone (including third parties) at any stage of the product or ingredient development. The company must provide written documentation, including from their suppliers and manufacturers.
Leaping Bunny is a fixed cutoff date standard, which means each company chooses the cutoff date after which they and their suppliers will halt animal testing. It can be any date up to and including the date a company applies. For the company's suppliers, the cutoff applies only to the ingredients supplied to the company. Suppliers may still conduct animal testing on ingredients supplied to non-certified companies. If an ingredient supplier starts testing an ingredient used by a company, the company must find a new source for that ingredient to remain in compliance.
Companies are audited regularly for compliance, so this is a highly reliable standard.
Choose Cruelty Free Standard
Choose Cruelty Free companies must meet the following criteria:
The company's products and ingredients may not be tested on animals by it, by its suppliers, or by anyone on the company's or suppliers' behalf. This practice must be in place at least 5 years before the company can apply for accreditation. If a company hasn't existed for 5 years, it can become certified if its products and ingredients have never been tested on animals by it, by its suppliers, or by anyone on their behalf.
Ingredients may not be
- Derived from an animal killed specifically for the extraction of that ingredient
- Forcibly extracted from a live animal in a manner that occasioned pain or discomfort
- Derived from any wildlife
- A by-product of the fur industry
- A slaughterhouse by-product of a commercially significant value (the animal was not killed specifically for the ingredient, but the ingredient was available due to the animal being killed for other purposes)
All parent and subsidiaries must also be certified cruelty free. For example, Tom's of Maine doesn't meet the Australian standard, because it is owned by Colgate-Palmolive.
Companies must sign a binding contract attesting that what they have said in their application is the truth about their practices. Companies are regularly re-accredited to make sure their practices continue to meet the Choose Cruelty Free standard. At any given time, about 20 companies are at some stage of the re-accreditation process.
Other Cruelty Free Lists
Other organizations have developed their own cruelty free lists, the best known being PETA's list. These lists rely on verbal confirmations from ingredient suppliers and contract manufacturers, which are not verified. This is a less reliable method. There's a reason why society uses written contracts for important transactions. Would you hire a major contractor without a written contract?
How the Standards Differ
Here are the major differences between the Leaping Bunny standard and the Choose Cruelty Free standard:
The Leaping Bunny standard has each company set a fixed cutoff date, after which the company commits to no animal testing. The cutoff date can be any date up to the date of the application. The Choose Cruelty Free standard requires companies to halt testing at least 5 years before they can apply for accreditation, or if the company is less than 5 years old, the company must declare that it has never tested on animals.
The Leaping Bunny standard requires companies to sign a contract and submit to audits. The Choose Cruelty Free standard requires a contract and requires companies to be re-accredited periodically to assure they continue to meet the standard.
The Leaping Bunny standard applies only to animal testing. The Choose Cruelty Free standard includes additional ingredient restrictions, based on whether the ingredient may be cruel in ways other than animal testing.
The Leaping Bunny standard considers independent subsidiaries of companies as separate entities who may become certified based on their own merits, so an independent subsidiary that doesn't test on animals can be certified even if the parent or a sister subsidiary tests on animals. The Choose Cruelty Free standard doesn't certify a subsidiary if its parent or a sister company tests on animals.
Despite these differences, both standards are strong and both provide good assurance that certified companies do not test on animals at any stage of product development.
Acknowledgments The author, Jean Knight, is extremely grateful to Leaping Bunny and to Choose Cruelty Free for reviewing the article for accuracy and for providing corrections and insights. Any remaining errors are the author's alone.
Notice: This site was developed and is hosted by White Rabbit Beauty, LLC, a retailer, as part of a broader public goal to make cruelty free products more accessible. We strive to make this an independent resource for cruelty free consumers. Here, we take the consumer's point of view, enabling you to find the best cruelty free products at the best prices at as many stores as possible. The site also has a direct advocacy role, providing news and information to help you take action to end animal testing.