In the clean beauty community, the term “cruelty free” means that a product and its ingredients have not been tested on animals. But not everyone uses this term to mean the same thing.
There is no legal definition of the term “cruelty free”, so its use is unrestricted. Some manufacturers may apply the term to their finished product only, and not to the ingredients. Sometimes manufacturers do not test on animals themselves, but their suppliers or contractors may do so. Some ingredients may have been tested on animals in the past, so manufacturers may claim “cruelty free” because their ingredients are "currently" not being tested on animals.
In order to have a clear understanding of the meaning of a “cruelty free” claim, consumers must rely on certifications from reputable organizations. PETA uses the term “cruelty-free” for companies that have verified that neither they nor their ingredient suppliers conduct, commission, or pay for any tests on animals for their ingredients, formulations, or finished products anywhere in the world and won’t do so in the future. Leaping Bunny, well known in the beauty industry, goes one step further by getting companies to agree to an independent audit.
In Canada and the United States, there is no requirement to test cosmetics on animals. Since 2013, the EU has prohibited the sale of cosmetics or ingredients that have been tested on animals. Other jurisdictions are considering doing the same. One day, the beauty industry may be truly “cruelty-free”.