Two of the most common new year’s resolutions I have been seeing this January have been to go vegan and to go cruelty-free. Today I want to explain those terms for those people who might be wondering what they mean and whether or not they are the same thing.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be January for you to make a change like this, but for a lot of people, there are so many terms that just getting started can be difficult.

I have been vegetarian and cruelty-free for 10 years now and I am still learning new things. I hope this post will clarify these two terms and maybe get you started.


Cruelty-Free means that a  product and its ingredients have not been tested on animals. Usually, but not always this refers to cosmetics. Within the European Union, animal testing on cosmetics is illegal but in other countries like China it is legal, even a requirement. Products that have been tested on animals in any part of the world, for any reason, cannot be considered cruelty-free.


Vegan is quite simple but many people do find it a bit confusing. Vegan means that a product does not contain any ingredients derived from animals. This could be milk and honey or carmine and shellac. If a product contains any animal products, it cannot be considered vegan.

Cruelty-Free Vs Vegan

In theory, both veganism and cruelty-free should be the same thing. Both concepts aim to reduce the or eliminate cruelty inflicted on animals in the making of products. The problem is that they do this in two separate ways.

Cruelty-free products have not been tested on animals but may contain animal products. Vegan products will not contain animal ingredients but may have been tested on animals.

I always think of the ingredient carmine as an example. Carmine comes in many names including cochineal, crimson lake, and E120, amongst others. Carmine is used in food items and cosmetics for its deep red colour.

Carmine comes from an insect which is killed.  Therefore, any product that contains carmine is cruel, right?

Remember cruelty-free only takes animal testing into consideration, it is not vegan. Vegan only takes contents into consideration and not testing.

So what should you do?

That’s up to you. For my part I am not vegan, I am vegetarian which means that I don’t consume any meat nor do I wear items made of leather or fur. My cosmetics are all cruelty- free and when buying something I prioritize vegan products that are also cruelty-free.

If I could stress one thing to people starting out, it would be to ignore those people that are all or nothing. I have had people say to me that it’s pointless to do one thing like be vegetarian when that doesn’t take environmental concerns into account. The problem is if you do nothing at all, then there’s a lot more cruelty in the world. I would argue that nobody can do everything.

So this is my part and I am always looking for ways to improve.

How do you find out if a product is cruelty-free or vegan?

Luckily there are lots of ways. I always start with the back of the packet. Many products will say on the back if they are cruelty-free, not tested on animals, suitable for vegans, or suitable for vegetarians.

Logo’s are the best way to find out here are a few, all of which have websites for you to explore and if a product has been endorsed by these organisations, the logo will be on the back of the packet.

  • Leaping Bunny (Cruelty Free International)  logos
  • Caring Consumer (PETA)
  •  Vegan Society

You can also check a companies animal testing policy on their website or contact the company directly.

A couple of things to keep in mind

  1. If a company says that it only tests its products on animals when required by law, it is NOT cruelty – free. There is no requirement to sell in any particular country and cruelty-free companies have chosen not to sell their products in countries where they would have to compromise their ethics, even if they could make a higher profit. It is my opinion that those are the companies I should choose to support.
  2. If a company refuses to tell you if they sell in countries that require animal testing, they are most likely selling to those countries and are not cruelty-free.
  3. If you are confused by an animal welfare policy, it is because that company wants you to be.


I hope this has helped. I know that it takes a bit of work but I have been doing this for so long and I can tell you its worth it. When I am asked why I’m vegetarian or cruelty-free or why do I drink almond milk in my coffee, I say that I don’t believe that anyone or anything should suffer and die so that I can eat what I want or wear a particular brand, it is unnecessary and I can do better. While I may not be able to do everything perfectly, I can be mindful of what I buy and make decisions based on doing the least amount of harm.

As always, if you have questions or comments leave them below.




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