I have always loved make-up. Obsessively watching beauty gurus on YouTube, awkwardly teaching myself to contour (I’m still learning), feeling that rush of excitement at getting my first Chanel red lip-stick and, yes, some questionable years of blue eyeliner experiments…make-up is, for better or worse, a big and valued part of my life. But, however enjoyable a hobby, make-up is not necessary.
I have been tip-toeing around the subject of cruelty free beauty products for a while now. It won’t take long for you to find online campaigns, many of which are fronted and supported by prominent beauty bloggers, urging people to evaluate the products they buy and ensure that animal testing has not been involved. I consider myself opposed to any form of unnecessary cruelty towards animals, and, therefore, against animal testing by default. While my initial reaction to this online activism was positive, I knew animal testing was illegal within the EU and so I assumed my own particular shopping habits were safe from any practices of cruelty. This, I discovered after a little online digging, was far from the case.
The process of uncovering how ethical a brand truly is can be extremely complex. While products which we buy here in the UK are required by EU law to be free from animal testing, that does not mean that the companies which own the brands must also follow a certain standard of ethics. Companies such as Nars and Urban Decay make claims about the cruelty free practices but are in fact owned by larger corporations such as L’Oreal who do test on animals. Information can be difficult to find on common drugstore make-up and often companies will claim to be free from animal testing ‘unless required by law’. This means trading with countries such as China has been prioritised above animal welfare. This information is nowhere near as transparent as it should be and, for those who wish to change their shopping habits, seeking the correct information can be pretty darn stressful.
This article is not referring to the animal testing of medical products which is part of a wider and far more complicated conversation of ethics. But cosmetics are items which we unambiguously do not need and so the discussion as to whether animals should suffer as a result of the consumption of these products is far more straight-forward: they shouldn’t. Personally, I see nothing hypocritical in moving towards cruelty free cosmetics even if you’re not vegetarian or vegan (though it’s great if you are). I’m neither but I can live without eyeliner if the alternative costs the life of animals.
I think the problem with the discussion surrounding animal testing is that there are few who may disagree with my sentiments above but there are many who feel, understandably, unable to make the necessary changes. I’m not speaking from a position of self-righteous know-how. I can offer what evidence and information I have managed to discover but I myself am only at the beginning of changing my attitude towards make-up retail. I don’t think there is fairness in shaming people for the products they buy, especially as most people are ignorant to the corporate trails which lead to the cruelty in the first place. Small prints and misleading company claims often result in people presuming that the products they buy are cruelty free when in reality the company have a carefully concealed track record of animal abuse.
Below are a list of useful blogs and websites which I’ve been using to help me when I shop. Does this mean throwing away my current make-up? No, use what you have and start trying new products next time you shop. It’s a complicated, frustrating system but, if we avoid the guilty companies and vote with our money, we can campaign for animal welfare while still enjoying a good red lipstick.
Useful blogs and websites:
This article originally appeared in Qmunicate magazine