Cruelty-free vs Vegan

Cruelty-free vs Vegan

I noticed that there is the misconception that when something is cruelty-free, it is automatically vegan. In other cases, many vegans believe that when something is vegan, it’s automatically cruelty-free. It’s not really the case. If you want a product that is both cruelty-free and vegan you have to look for both labels on the product.

What does cruelty-free mean?

“Cruelty-free” also known as “not tested on animals” are terms which unfortunately you only see in cosmetics and household cleaning products. What I mean with unfortunately is that food and drink products don’t have this label too. There are a lot of animal testing companies, some of which produce vegan-friendly food which vegan unknowingly support. To name a few Mars, Nestle, Danone and Unilever. To check if you’re supporting these companies, check the address at the back of the product.

So back on the definition for cruelty-free, this term only means that the brand isn’t supporting animal testing, nothing else. A product can be not tested on animals but still can have ingredients that are derived from animals.

Another note on this term. Usually it is the brand that is cruelty-free and not the product. You can’t have a brand which has some products that are cruelty-free and some not. It’s either the brand believes that products or ingredients shouldn’t be tested on animals, or not. The brands that you see on my cruelty-free list are brands who are fully cruelty-free. I don’t list brands who have for example half of their products not tested on animals. That’s one of the reasons that companies that sell in China are no longer considered as cruelty-free. Even though these international companies in China have a range of products specific for the Chinese market, animal organisations don’t consider these brands as cruelty-free.

What does vegan mean?

Unlike the term “cruelty-free”, you see the term “vegan” in everything from food to cosmetics, to fashion wear. This term only means that the product contains no animal-derived ingredients, nothing else. A vegan product can be tested on animals. To be both cruelty-free and vegan, brands need to print both labels on the product. To have one label, one must get a certification from the Vegan Society. If I am not mistaken, the Vegan Society makes sure that the certified vegan product is also not tested on animals.

In this case, both the brand and the product can be vegan. You can have a vegan company, that means that the company produces only vegan products. On the other hand you can have a non-vegan company that produces some vegan or accidentally vegan products. In this case it’s the product that is vegan or accidentally vegan. The term “accidentally vegan” is used when the product is not meant to be vegan but it contains no animal-derived ingredients.


So the next time that you will look for a cruelty-free and vegan products, look for vegan products from cruelty-free brands. As I said before, you can only do this with cosmetics and household cleaning products. With regards to food and drink, for now we have to hope that the brand doesn’t test on animals.

I hope that now you have understood the difference between these two ethical terms. If you have more questions on this topic don’t be shy to ask, others might have your same questions.



(a.k.a. Fiona Henschel) Malta-born blogger. I have been blogging during these last 6 years on my cruelty-free lifestyle including recipes, beauty and makeup products that I discover, receive, buy and try.