Are your favourite products REALLY not tested on animals?

Just recently leading international beauty companies Avon and Estee Lauder (who claim to be cruelty free) were outed as testing their products on animals. The two, who’d previously claimed to have a long-standing policy against animal testing, are now paying for it to be done in Chinese government labs.

It is unclear how long this has been going on, but what the story illustrates is that finding companies that have genuine non-animal testing policies can be frustrating as some make misleading claims – for example a company may say ‘Finished product not tested on animals’ or ‘not tested on animals’, which means the ingredients could well be! Avon had even claimed, ‘Avon does not test products or ingredients on animals, nor do we request others to do so on our behalf’ whilst admitting in correspondence and on their global website that they carry out toxicity testing on animals.

UK group Uncaged says that Avon’s refusal to stop animal testing is due to their desire to be able to incorporate new chemicals into their products, as they believe innovation will maximise their profits. This despite the fact that there are already 8000 ingredients in existence – more than enough!

Shopping you can trust

So this begs the question, how can you truly trust a statement that a company is not performing cruel and painful experiments on animals? Well, of course there’s SAFE Shopper, SAFE’s own guide to products available in New Zealand that are not tested on animals. There’s a huge range and products are available everywhere you’d usually shop, from the supermarket to online and pharmacies. Check out the list here and download your free wallet sized booklet. If any companies you know of are not listed on SAFE Shopper you can also send them SAFE’s handy letter and ask them to apply.

And it also pays to be a ‘cruelty free detective’ when you’re out shopping, so you can learn to see past wording that seeks to give the impression that a company is not hurting animals for the sake of a new lipstick or shampoo. Here’s SAFE’s handy guide to spotting companies that test on animals:

How to be a ‘Cruelty Free Detective’

Just because a company says ‘against testing on animals’ it doesn’t mean they really don’t do it. Confused? Wonder no longer! To see through those marketing ploys, first read the label carefully.

1. No mention

Of course, if you look at a product that makes no mention of animal testing – assume that means they do. Ethical shopping is big business and companies are keen to hook your business, so if they don’t test they’ll say so.

2. ‘No product testing’

However, we also need to be aware and on the lookout for suspiciously worded or ambiguous statements. For example, according to Uncaged, Clarins says:

“In 1987, Clarins was the first French company to cease product testing on animals.”

Notice that they specifically mention ‘product’ testing and not ingredients?

3. ‘No ingredient testing’/’required by law’

Avon says: “Avon does not test products or ingredients on animals, nor do we request others to do so on our behalf. Avon will conduct animal testing only when required by law.”

This statement seems quite clear at first glance –they don’t test on animals. BUT they may still buy new ingredients that have been tested on animals, therefore benefiting from animal testing. AND, what about that “only when required by law” line? It means they DO test. Remember no company HAS to sell their products anywhere.  Many, like Lush, are taking a stand by simply not selling their products in areas that require animal testing.

4. Random bunnies

Watch out for random bunny logos, too – as there are no laws surrounding animal testing statements in New Zealand many companies just place their own bunny logo on their products whilst not adhering to any kind of cruelty free scheme’s requirements!

Don’t touch!

So what companies should you take special care to avoid? According to PETA the big three to watch out for are Unilever, Johnson and Johnson and Proctor and Gamble. They make a huge number of everyday products you might not even know were manufactured by them.

In New Zealand Unilever sells (amongst others) Dove, Impulse, Lynx, Lux, Pears, Rexona, Sunsilk, Vaseline, Domestos, Surf, Persil and Jif.

Proctor and Gamble manufactures Gillette, Head and Shoulders, Herbal Essences, Nice ‘n Easy, Olay, Pantene, Max Factor and Wella.

Johnson and Johnson sells Aveeno, Listerine, Baby Lotion, Roc, Neutrogena and Piz Buin. This is just a selection of their products. For more information and a guide to other companies to boycott to help animals, please check out PETA’s list.

Vote with your wallet and say no to cruel animal testing!

Mandy Carter, SAFE Campaign manager


38 Comments Add yours

  1. buy cruelty-free. Please.

  2. Talia S says:

    Via Facebook, Clinique NZ (under Estee Lauder’s umbrella) have given the following reply to me:
    “Hi Talia! Thank you for your concern, I too would be concerned if this was the case. We can however confirm that Clinique does not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients, nor ask others to test on our behalf, except when required by law. You’re safe to return to your ‘brand junkie’ status!”
    I’m still not convinced. It sounds like that is just their standard response and they are repeating it, because they (as customer reps or whatever) are not in a position to reply on this new information.

    1. SAFE says:

      Hi Talia, thanks for sharing. It seems the key part of that statement is “except when required by law” You can ask Clinique to comment on this story:

  3. Sarah says:

    Totally understand where you are coming from…. But you need to be aware….
    A company may claim that their products are not tested on animals ….. However they have brought the knowledge from other companies that have. For instance a product can not be used unless it has been tested……. It may not have been tested today, yesterday or last year but maybe 15 years or 20 years ago when animal testing was common practise…. So when i am asked by consumers if a product is tested on animals my response always is: How can any company claim that their product is not tested on animals when in fact they were but just not by them (and I am not just talking about those that “outsource their testing” as you are indicating).
    most commonly used products in everyday usage were at one stage tested on animals!!!!

  4. Katharina Naran says:

    Just for a feew month ago I looked into animal testing and I discoverd that most products I used is been tested on animal ( I feel so bad for that I dident know about that) I now try to use products there are not been test it on animals but it is so hard ther are so many lists out ther I cary 2 with my around ( one list is from peta)… I bored me some Hand cream from Aveeno it was not on on off this list so I belived it is safe… at home I read on it, it is been made from Johnson & Johnson. ;-( Most products from that list is not affordabel for me ;-( It is so hard to stay crulety free… ;-( Does someone know the truth about Nivea?

    1. Mandy (SAFE) says:

      Hi Katharina, thanks for your comment. I’m not certain about Nivea sorry. Did you try writing to them?

      Regarding cruelty free products, have you checked out ? Some good brands I can recommend are Natures Organics for shampoos and shower gel (about $6 in Countdown and Warehouse) and for skincare and make up try Natio. You could also have a go at making some of your own products! Check out SAFE’s pinterest board here:

      1. Catherine says:

        I bought a Natio bronzer about a year ago because it was a great product & a good price. I didn’t realise they were anti animal testing until about 6 months ago which is fantastic so I’ve moved onto their skincare range which is brilliant and they have a very good mens range also. Trilogy is another organic NZ brand which is fabulous also !

      2. Carol McNamara says:

        I bought Nivea products for years, as did my mother before me. I am disgusted that they built up their brand loyalty then threw all the goodwill away, along with their ethics and morals, when they saw the potential of the Chinese market. One day in the future, though probably not in my lifetime, China will join the civilized world re: animal testing. No doubt companies like Nivea will spend a fortune trying to buy back the brand loyalty that they threw away so easily.

    2. Marii_kv says:

      I live in Brazil and I wrote to the company here. I’ve been told that they don’t do the tests, but they use some products that are tested in animals so they can sell in China.
      But in the rest of the world, they don’t use the products.
      For me, doesn’t matter.. I don’t use it anymore.

  5. Anne Hoffman says:

    “Clarins wants you
    to know that we do not perform animal testing on any of our products.
    Further, we do not employ the use of animal ingredients or animal
    by-products in our formulas. For over 40 years we have been recognized
    for our expertise in botanical ingredients, upon which the entire
    Clarins skin care line is built. However, non-animal testing assurances
    cannot be provided from our ingredient suppliers. ”

    NOT so good!

  6. Clarins and Ester Lauder test in animals in China and Russia, so they do test in animals…don’t buy anymore from them….
    Has other companies that are Vegan and much better….we don’t need to put products in our faces that is full of pain and suffering from animals….pain can’t heal and makes us more beautiful.

  7. You don’t have to buy expensive products, you ca eat well, have green juices for a beautiful skin, and make your own fresh creams with avocado, coconut milk…you can put in your hair and etc…plus have many companies that are vegan and cost little as Nivea….don’t fall for the expensive stereotype, expensive is Clarins, Clinique, Lancome…and all of them….
    Take some early morning sun….drink load of mineral spring water…breath pure air and exercise….You will see your skin will look much beautiful than ever before….you got fooled in buying all these products thinking they are important…I use them myself for years, now I am much healthier and healed as a Vegan as never before….

    1. Kavita says:

      This is an amazing comment and so true! I believe in eating right and staying fit. I do not use many skin care products/cosmetics, but from the time I got aware of animal testing, I am not buying the products that test on animals. In India we have ayurvedic products and natural ones, plus there are companies like Biotique that claim not to do animal testing. I don’t know how to validate the claims though.
      Keep up the good work!
      -Kavita Raut

    2. Thanks so much for your amazing comment. I agree with you as well. I was using before many of expensive cosmetic products, but no more. O am doing so well my health and skin with drinking more water, raying more veggies and fruits, bug using some cheaper creams as well.

  8. And my brothers and sisters are not dying from torture in incredible pain.

  9. Angela says:

    Does anyone know about Environ? They declare on their website that they only test on human volunteers NEVER on animals. However there is no mention of ingredient suppliers?

  10. Carol McNamara says:

    Health Basics – I’ve posted elsewhere their letter, here’s the part that makes me angry: “However, in certain limited circumstances, local laws and regulations (such as the importation to China) require animal testing for cosmetic products to demonstrate consumer safety as part of the product registration process, and, in the case of China, is carried out by the Government itself. This is a legal requirement applicable to all cosmetic products without exception, and is not specific to, or requested by, Health Basics. This is not a process that we support, fund, have any control/influence over, or any involvement in. API do not authorise any testing, nor do we pay for any testing. The testing is carried out once, as part of the registration process and once registered, no further testing is required. Like many NZ & Global manufacturers, we do export our range abroad. This is to build a sustainable and growing NZ business”. How can they advertise that their products aren’t tested on animals when they know that they are in China? Wouldn’t that kind of advertising contravene consumer guarantee laws? Any lawyers out there with an answer to this???

  11. joanne says:

    i Have just been to the Nivea site and clicked on their research tab it states there that their products or ingredients are not tested on animals. They have people that volunteer to have tests done on them and other tests are conducted in agar plates. I have written to them to verify this and am waiting for a reply i will post the result of this when i get it but so far i am as sure about them as i can be.

    1. Carol McNamara says:

      An example of careful wording I expect, think you’ll find that they allow/condone testing in China, in order to get into the Chinese market. I’ll never buy Nivea again as I believe they’ve sold out on their morals and ethics by putting profits first. If more were like Weleda and simply refused to supply that market I think that maybe the Chinese would have considered changing their stance, but it’s too late now.

    2. Carol McNamara says:

      Here’s part of the reply that I got from Nivea – “In regards to your query regarding animal testing in China, unfortunately at this time the Chinese law requires that animal testing be done in some product categories for local product approval. In this case the tests are conducted by local institutions that are authorized by the state as part of the registration process of a product. Beiersdorf, along with the European cosmetic industry, is committed to eliminating the need for animal testing. Beiersdorf are participants in many programmes for the development of alternatives to testing in animals.” Happy to send you the entire email if you want, but I think my advice would be – find an alternative to Nivea.

  12. Carol Curtin says:

    Can someone tell me the situation with ‘Yes to Carrots range’ .. they claim to be cruelty free. I even emailed them and they confirmed that they were .. but I have come across some articles on the internet stating that they are now selling their range in China.. does this mean that ultimately the product going there has to undergo animal testing and so they are not really cruelty free at all?

    1. Carol McNamara says:

      An interesting question – I started using “Yes To..” products a few weeks ago and I also would be interested to know if I can still be guilt-free about using them. Personally I don’t think any company should be allowed to claim that their products aren’t animal tested, if they know that they are being tested in China. Feel a bit conned.

  13. Ildi Shepherd says:

    I’ve been using Next Generation laundry powder. Its package says no animal testing but they haven’t been on safeshopper list.

    1. SAFE says:

      Hi Ildi, you can ask Next Generation to apply for SAFE Shopper. There is a handy letter in the FAQ here:

  14. Rosella says:

    You can go to their websites and look for a listing for the doctors
    you are considering. Is he an active member of a Plastic Surgery Association or Society.
    If nothing else, it is more “beach and tan” culture than the West
    LA So many people seeking cosmetic surgery and there are many thousands
    of them who can afford it.

  15. Natasha says:

    I was wondering if it doesn;t say on a product no animal testing does that mean the company is evil

  16. vanesa belle says:

    My vegan products are cruelty – free …. Addresschic provides a quality vegan products and their all products are purely vegan ..

  17. Nicole says:

    Be aware to that The Body Shop is owned by L’Oreal which tests on animals! ..don’t be fooled by their marketing and image!

  18. Asher says:

    Have you ever met a person that tests on animals? How did they react?

  19. Pip White says:

    Hi there, I tried the Essano range of products from the supermarket but when I checked their parent company info online (Mix Lt) it says they distribute to China. I have emailed them asking about animal testing (as they say they don’t!) but no response as yet. That was a few days ago too that I emailed them. Won’t be buying their products again until I get a response and see what they say…..

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