Frequently, folks feel baffled by the terms “vegan”, “vegetarian”, and “cruelty-free.” Many people use the words interchangeably, not really understanding the designations. The term “cruelty-free” is even more confusing. Is taking milk from a cow cruel? How about honey from a beehive?
This stuff can be puzzling to the uninitiated. We figured we’d shed some light on the subject by offering a handy guide to help you understand the distinctions between the three terms as we use them here at Vegetarian Beauty Products.
Vegan: This word is used to designate products that are made with no animal ingredients whatsoever. This designation isn’t limited to mammals and marine life. It also extends to insects and their products. Honey is not a vegan substance. Vegans abstain from animal ingredients for a variety of reasons – moral considerations, allergies, overall health, etc. Most of them do not like to be part of a system that harms animals in any way, which includes exploiting them for their milk, honey, eggs, etc.
Vegetarian: No animal ever needs to die for these products. However, the products can include ingredients that have originated from animals, taken with a minimum of suffering. An example of this is honey obtained from a responsibly sourced beehive – or, better yet, beeswax that has been discarded by the bees because it is no longer of any use to them. Another example is milk from a family farm, one in which the cows or goats can graze freely, live out their natural lives without being butchered, and are handled with love and respect. The most important caveat is that the animal is not required to endure painful treatment of any kind.
Carmine is an example of a non-vegetarian ingredient that is frequently used as a colorant in makeup products; carmine is made by crushing up beetles (Burt’s Bees is a classic example of a company that appears to be animal-friendly but that in fact uses carmine).
Cruelty-Free: The “cruelty-free” designation can be confusing because there is so much overlap between it and the “vegan” and “vegetarian” categories. The bottom line is this: For a product to be cruelty-free, animals can not suffer in any way in the manufacturing process. Honey and beeswax are okay, if they are obtained with minimal disruption to the bees. Lanolin, which is derived from sheep’s wool, is not a cruelty-free product. The sheep are often crowded together in pens, treated poorly, and sheared of their coats in an extremely painful way known as mulesing. Their existence is a terrible one, and many of them die. Of course, animal testing goes completely against the grain of the “cruelty-free” ethos. This process is ugly, involving substances being dripped into animal’s eyes to see if they sting, restraining the animals, etc.
Note that if a product claims to be cruelty-free, but is sold in China, it is not cruelty-free because China requires animal testing.
Our site features only products that are cruelty-free, and vegan (ideally), or at least vegetarian. We firmly believe that human beauty should not come at the expense of animals. There are so many wonderful skin care, body care, and makeup offerings that you’ll feel good about using, and we’ll continue to showcase them here. We hope this article has helped to clear up any confusion you may have!