What's that bunny saying? Makeup and Animal Testing Labeling

What’s that bunny mean?

Have you ever been in a store or watched an ad where someone deliberately tries to gloss over things or make them confusing to get you to do what they want (buy something)? Sure you have. And this is basically what happened to “no animal testing” messaging over time. How the hell are you supposed to know what vague text claiming no animal testing really means? Or if the bunny logo on the bottle means anything? I’m here to walk you through it.

If you want the cheat sheet, here we go:

Leaping Bunny (logo above) – best, most rigorous process for the companies (no ingredients or finished product tested on animals; must open entire product chain for independent audit; must promise to stop animal testing after a certain date when they sign on)

Cruelty-Free bunny (logo above) – okay, it’s a promise from the company (no ingredients or finished product tested on animals; company gives its word but no proof is required)

“no animal testing” text (no logo) – be careful, this (and other logos that are not the above) can mean anything as these misc logos and text claims are not regulated or checked up on by anyone (check the Leaping Bunny list of the company name, check the company’s website for their policy on animal testing and if you need help, let me know)

If you want to know the whole bunny debacle, put your seatbelt on.
Let’s get into how necessary animal testing is first. In the US there is no law requiring that cosmetics, personal care products or household products be tested on animals – there are either effective non-animal tests available for companies to use or there are a host of current ingredients that already have an MSDS available from years ago for companies to use. So between being able to test without using animals and using ingredients already proven safe, companies don’t need to test cosmetics, personal care products or household goods on animals. Period. No requirement. The FDA doesn’t require it. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission doesn’t require it. No one requires it.
In fact, the European Union has outright banned animal testing on finished products or ingredients of cosmetics/household goods AND the marketing of items that have been guilty of such testing in their markets as of 2009, with further research into whether certain toxicity tests will remain valid by 2013. {see here}
The tests are pretty sick and usually don’t tell you how toxic something would realistically be to humans anyway, since the tests on animals are so extreme or the amounts of product forced on the animal in the test is usually something that a human would have to make a conscious effort to eat or stick in their eye for an extended period of time on a dare. If you do a little online research you can find some gruesome examples on your own; I figured you'd already be against it and I'd spare us all the downer for today.
Okay, now that we have covered why animal testing for cosmetics, personal care and household products is ridiculous, which you probably already knew, we can cover the two main bunny logos and what they mean.
Leaping Bunny looks like this:

This Leaping Bunny makes companies submit their entire product process chain for independent audit in terms of the ingredients and finished product not being testing on animals. This bunny asks for more than the Cruelty-Free bunny below. What if a company wants to sign up but they’ve done animal testing in the past? Leaping Bunny asks for a “fixed date” – which means this company won’t test any finished products or ingredients on animals or contract anyone else to do so after a specific date in time. After this date, all new ingredients or products must NOT be tested on animals both by the company and its ingredients suppliers.
A “fixed date” agreement is better than a “rolling date” – which is what some shady companies use to say they don’t test on animals. A “rolling date” is not a date per se, but a time period, like “5 years”. Using that example, they won’t use an animal-tested ingredient released in 2012 from 2012 through 2016 but in 2017, they are allowed to use that ingredient and still try to claim “no animal testing”. It enables companies to use basically any ingredient tested on animals, as long as they wait long enough to use it. This does nothing to prohibit animals from being used in tests. It does, however, give them a way to falsely advertise that they don’t test on animals. When you want to buy something not tested on animals, this is probably not what you’re looking for, right? As the Connect Four commercial used to say, “Pretty sneaky, sis”!
So, Leaping Bunny means no ingredients or finished product tested on animals with a set fixed date when all of this starts happening. Companies are subject to audit at Leaping Bunny’s discretion.

Cruelty-Free bunny looks like this:

The companies who carry this logo have signed documents with PETA stating basically the same things that Leaping Bunny up there asks for – no ingredients or finished product tested on animals. No labs contracted by their ingredients supplier or their own company to do animal testing. But there is no opening their supply chain to independent audit. This agreement is a matter of trust and PETA notes that they hope the bad press a company would get if they signed up for this bunny and still did testing would deter any company thinking of doing that from even trying. (I am poking around as to whether this bunny means there’s a fixed date or not – something else to consider.)
Strangely, companies can be on the Leaping Bunny or Cruelty-Free shopping lists and chose not to license the logo to put on their bottles. So if you have favorite brands you use and it doesn’t have a Leaping Bunny logo, you might want to try checking their list online. If you decide that the Cruelty-Free standards are enough for you to trust the company isn’t tested on animals, you can check their list as well.

This leaves the variations of the “no animal testing” text claim. This can be anything from “no animal testing”, which might mean they are using that sneaky 5 year rolling rule above. It could mean the ingredients are tested on animals but not the finished product. It could mean the company contracts labs to do the testing. It could also mean any of the things in the Cruelty-Free standards. Because there is no general oversight or regulation of using such words as “no animal testing” or “cruelty-free”, we’ll never know exactly what they mean and the best we’ll get is a company policy that hopefully says the things we want to hear (no ingredients or finished product tested on animals by them or contracted parties and a fixed date!). But most of the times you don’t get that. “Finished product not tested on animals” most likely means the ingredients are. “Cruelty-free” can mean anything. “100% Natural” can mean anything. (I’m always amazed by how many products I find that say “no animal ingredients” and they have lanolin, beeswax, honey or even more obviously animal-derived things in them. Seriously. Where do they draw the line in removing that claim? Beef tongue?)
If you are using products that make these claims, check to see if they’re on the Leaping Bunny list. Check to see if they have a no animal testing policy stating what that means on their website. And if they don’t, now’s a good time to put their customer service department to work!

So there you have it. The good, the bad and the hideously ugly.
If you have any questions, pop on down to ye ol’ comments and I will do my best to answer them.


  1. Very helpful advice! I'm embarrassed but I actually hadn't known the difference in the bunnies.

  2. This is really, really good to know. Thank you!

    My current favorite lip balm has a third symbol, the seated bunny in a circle with a line through it. This either means "no bunnies allowed" or "no animal testing [on finished product]."

  3. Thanks for this! I didn't actually know what the difference between the two bunnies was.

    That whole elusive "100% natural" claim is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. I see it all the time, and most often in food products. I have friends who talk about buying "natural" this and eating "natural" that as if it was some great accomplishment, and I sometimes have to bite my tongue to not completely lash out on them. It pays off to do a bit of detective work to find out what's what, and I try to do my best to educate others.

  4. First, I want to know if there are any animal-derived ingredients in a product! When will people start realizing that using animal-derived ingredients is as cruel as testing on animals? If a product isn't tested on animals, but contains animal-derived ingredients, it doesn't deserve a "cruelty-free" label!

  5. @ Betsy -

    Very good point and one that I also follow. The PETA cruelty-free bunny does has a vegan option for companies to license for vegan items (which should be devoid of animal products) - so the Cruelty-Free Bunny will be present and it will say "Cruelty-free and vegan" on the label. A good example is Tom's of Maine toothpaste; they carry that extended logo.

    Granted, Tom's of Maine was bought out by Colgate-Palmolive, a company that tests on animals but their personal care products seem to have the assurance of not doing any animal testing. Colgate-Palmolive, however, is on PETA's new list of companies who only test on animal as required by law - so, products that are not household/personal care - and who are working for regulatory change, which means putting personnel or capital towards non-animal tests to fulfill those testing requirements.

    PETA's announcement of that list is here: http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/2011/09/20/important-new-info-for-caring-consumers.aspx

  6. Thanks so much for this, Jesse!

  7. I had been completely unaware of any of these designations, so you can imagine how much I have learned from this post. I'm going to begin checking for these.

    Years ago, the mother of a high school friend tried to get me to sell cosmetics designed for burn victims. I used the products and only then read the fine print...human placenta extract. You can only imagine my dismay.

  8. Right, so from now on, i look for the bunny. Hang on a minute...is this just for America though? It's a lot trickier than i thought. It pays not to assume that words actually mean anything on those bottles.
    I'm embarrassed that I didn't think of beeswax as being an animal product. Now i feel ashamed! And as to Terri's comment, placenta extract? Revolting, anyone that has seen a placenta, knows what the heck I'm talking about.

  9. I just want to correct my Tom's of Maine example - they don't actually use the "Cruelty free and vegan" logo but Nature's Gate moisturizer does, for a more accurate example!

    @ Teeny - I'm not sure what goes on in your neck of the woods! The only two areas I do know about are the UK and US. And most people don't think beeswax and honey are animal products - unless you really start thinking about ingredients with those parameters, it's an easy one to miss.

    @ Terri - Oh my. I would never have expected *that* as an ingredient!

  10. Hi - I'm Director of Policy of the BUAV, the British group who set up and run the Leaping Bunny scheme internationally (see http://www.gocrueltyfree.org/ ), working with the CCIC coalition in the USA (see http://leapingbunny.org/ ). Thanks very much for this very accurate overview amd all the helpful comments! A few additional points may interest you:

    - Teeny, it's a global standard. The way it works is that companies who claim to be cruelty-free can ask for for the Leaping Bunny logo, and we ask them to agree to an independent audit to prove it (we look at their ingredient suppliers). We have two full-time staff on this and it's the main reason why the Leaping Bunny is generally accepted as the gold standard - otherwise, it does depend on whether you just believe companies. But clearly if you're in Paraguay and there's a local company they've probably not got round to talking to us, so they *might* be cruelty free without the logo.

    - We don't allow companies who export to China at present to have the logo, since China *requires* unpleasant animal testing for all cosmetics, no ifs and buts. This is the "unless tested by law" argument which PETA has been accepting as a not-so-bad category, but there are plenty of companies who don't export to China for this sole reason (e.g. The Body Shop). The basic question is whether a company cares enough about being cruelty-free to ignore a big export market.

    - There are signs that China may be going to rethink in a year or two. We're working on it and may have some developments on this and other global issues quite soon - keeping an eye on www.buav.org this week may have interesting news on this as I've got a meeting on Monday about it.

    - Some Leaping Bunny companies don't have the logo on all products. This is their marketing department's decision - might be because they want an unfussy label without anything but their core "Silky Delight" or whatever message. We don't care - if they don't make animals suffer, they can sell their stuff however they like. But checking the websites is the way to be sure.

    - There are lots of cross-ownerships in the industry (e.g. the Colgate example) and they change over time. Rather than keep chopping and changing we just look at the specific brand and say this brand doesn't test on animals so you can buy it and no animal has bween hurt". If company A's products aren't tested on animals, we'll give them the logo, even if company B buys some or all of their shares. Ultimately we want B to say "hey, A seems to make more money than we do, maybe it's time we changed our thinking".

    Hope this is helpful! I can be reached on nick.palmer@buav.org if anyone has queries. And thanks again for the interest and concern.

  11. Hello!! GREAT article! May I link back to you? This is so informative, and I'm hoping to spread the word. I just found out today that my favorite make-up company has switched from being animal cruelty free, and no testing-- to SELLING OUT to CHINA- and therefore changing their policy to animal testing. (Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr). So I'm getting ready to do a video about it... and switch to Two Faced, or Urban Decay or ELF.

    Thanks so much!

    Heather Ashley Chase

  12. Thank you so very much for putting this together! VERY VERY helpful and informative. Wahoo! Monique for Las Vegas

  13. This is extremely helpful for me, thank you so much! :)

  14. Thanks! I shared your article on my facebook page!

  15. thank you for sharing the info.
    ive been wondering if the non leaping bunny logo appears on varous cosmetic products i recently purchases meant to be free of animal testing. still finding out the real meaning behind the logo. it not the bunny that leaps.
    but looking similar to the official one.

  16. What if a company is using the bunny logo (only in black) and professes to have the leaping bunny logo, yet I cannot find them on the leaping bunny site? Is there a way you can check this out ?

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