Cruelty-free vs Vegan… “Not Tested On Animals”

Cruelty-free vs Vegan... "Not Tested On Animals"

Just as “lactose-free” and “vegan” have a different meaning, “not tested on animals”, “cruelty-free” and “vegan” also have different meanings. Same goes with “organic” and “natural”. However, that’s a topic for another time maybe. Today I will once again be going through the definitions of the terms “cruelty-free” and “vegan”, and I will explain my definition of the phrase “not tested on animals” that many cosmetics brands that sell in China like to say.

1. Definition

  • Cruelty-free means not supporting animal testing.
  • Vegan means not containing animal-derived ingredients or materials.


  • Cruelty-free refers to the brand most of the time. If the brand is cruelty-free, then it’s products are cruelty-free. I don’t know how it was 30 years ago, but nowadays it is not accepted for a brand to have a product that is cruelty-free when the brand itself is not cruelty-free. It’s either 100% cruelty-free or else it’s boycotted.
  • Vegan refers most of the time to a product. There are cases when a brand is 100% vegan. However, most vegans don’t mind that the brand is not 100% vegan as long as the brand offers vegan products. I think this would be accepted until there are enough 100% vegan brands. Just as what I assume would have happened before when a cruelty-free lifestyle was new.


  1. A product can be vegan but not cruelty-free.
  2. The V-Label (the green and yellow sign) only checks if the product is tested on animal and not whether the brand supports animal testing.
  3. Bunny logos are starting to lose their value. PETA are certifying brands that are selling cosmetics in China where cosmetics are at risk of being tested on animals.
  4. “Not tested on animals” text on the packaging doesn’t really mean cruelty-free. Since the EU ban, every brand that sells in the EU claims that they do not or as anyone to test on animals. However, some of these brands are selling in China. That is why I started differentiating between whether a brand tests on animals and cruelty-free. My definitions are:
    1. tests on animals … they test on animals themselves or ask third parties to do it for them.
    2. cruelty-free … whether at some point the brand had anything to do with animal testing. Either what specified in point 4.1 or they sell in China or anything new that has to be exposed.

This was a question asked in one of the popular vegan Facebook groups in Malta. I was tagged to give my feedback and the above is my reply. If you still can’t understand something please do ask further.


(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.