In a world saturated by marketing jargon, the labels on products aren’t always easy to decipher. While the term “organic” is regulated—to an extent, anyway—phrases like “all-natural,” “hypoallergenic,” and “cruelty-free” are not. One Hollywood actress, however, has mounted a crusade against companies that don’t mean what they say on their labels, particularly when it comes to our critter pals. As a spokeswoman for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit health organization that opposes testing cosmetics on animals, Kristin Bauer (Pam the vampire in HBO’s True Blood) wants to expose brands that exploit semantic loopholes for their own purposes.

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Look for the “Leaping Bunny” logo on products that are credibly cruelty-free.


“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says on its website that companies can make any claim about their animal testing policies because there is no regulated definition of what is cruelty-free,” Vicki Katrinak, the administrator for the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, tells the New York Times. But although companies can say that their products are “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals,” their claims may refer only to the finished product and not specific ingredients, she says. Most animal testing, she adds, happens on the ingredient level.

Although companies may say that their products are “cruelty-free,” their claims may refer only to the finished product and not specific ingredients.

When it comes to animal welfare, the European Union is leagues ahead of the United States. In 2009, the EU banned cosmetics and personal-products companies from testing their products on animals for skin irritancy, sensitivity to light, and acute toxicity. By March 2013, companies will no longer be allowed to test for longer-term toxicity.

“It’s so simple for me: we shouldn’t be torturing another living being for mascara when we don’t have to,” Bauer says. “It seems so odd when you think of shaving cream and a bunny, or mascara and a guinea pig. We’re not saving a life.”

So while some brands like Aveda, Josie Maran, Burt’s Bees, and Bare Escentuals don’t or have never tested on animals, other familiar names such as Dove, Aveeno, Kiehl’s, and Neutrogena do, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Not that cosmetics companies seem to care very much about people, either. The Safe Cosmetics Act is still waiting for Congress to pull it out of legislative limbo. But although the act promotes alternatives to animal testing, advocates like Katrinak don’t think it’ll be enough. “We are worried that without a full ban being incorporated into the language of that bill, there will be more testing,” she says.

Until that day comes, look for PETA’s cruelty-free bunny logo or the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics’ “Leaping Bunny” imprint for products that are credibly animal-friendly.

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[Via The New York Times]