Sunday, February 19, 2012

Vegan and Cruelty Free Resources

Perhaps it is because I’ve spent the last three years researching and writing about everything under the sun for university, but I enjoy doing research and the rewarding feeling of empowerment and preparedness it brings. When I changed my lifestyle by purchasing only cruelty free products and then again by become vegan, I wanted to learn a lot of information quickly. It’s been five months since I’ve become vegan and I believe I’ve done a great job of finding a lot of information and have picked up a lot of skills that will serve me for the rest of my life.

Finding this helpful information was a lot harder than I anticipated. I still believe obtaining information about cruelty-free products is harder than finding vegan information simply because companies have an interest in keeping that information harder to find. Established vegans usually guide new vegans into a helpful, tip filled world making the change much easier and pleasant. However, it is harder to find a lot of vegan information with a quick Google search.

Therefore, I've created a guide below with some great resources I’ve discovered in the past five months. The more people you find, the more people they discuss, and the easier it is to find more vegan and cruelty free information/gurus/blogs. This online community is extremely important because for some people these may be the only other vegans/animals rights/cruelty free people they can converse with. I live in a large, thriving city, but I’ve only met two ex-vegans and no one who wants to actively work against animal testing.

I’ve organized the links into obvious categories and will break them up into multiple posts due to the volume. This first post will be about vegan and cruelty free products. I hope that these help you get the information you desire and allow you to make the changes you aim for.

Products & Misc. Lifestyle

Veggie Beauty

If you only look up one resource from this entire list make sure its Kristy’s youtube (veggiebeauty), website, and facebook page! When I discovered her youtube channel, I was ecstatic because it was exactly what I had been hoping to find! She is both vegan and cruelty free and keeps up a standard for the products she manufactures (Pumpkin and Poppy Cosmetics) and buys that I completely agree with.

She has numerous videos about what she buys at the grocery store, what products she uses, and, as she’s on a budget like the rest of us, she talks about a lot of affordable products. Her facebook page is very interactive, and she has replied to every question and comment I’ve made there so far. Seriously, check her out!

Vegan Break

Michelle is vegan and has a great youtube channel (veganbreak) and website. She has a range of videos that include restaurant reviews, grocery hauls, and animal rights information.

Vegan Beauty Review

This one is pretty self explanatory! I prefer her website to her youtube channel (sunbundelicious) since it has a lot more information, but she has such a great personality I enjoy watching her videos. She is vegan, cruelty-free, and prefers products with natural ingredients.

Veg News

Veg News’ youtube channel (VegNewsTV) and website have been the closest thin I’ve found to a (free) vegetarian/vegan/cruelty free news channel or magazine. Their articles and videos cover news in the community, recipes, and green/vegan travel. They also have a print magazine.

Temptalia Dupe List

Temptalia is a regular blog that does not cater to cruelty free or vegan products. However, they have an amazing dupe list that can be helpful when searching for a cruelty free or vegan alternative. If there is some product you are fond of hopefully you will be able to find a dupe that you can feel good about using.

The Discerning Brute

This great blog is for all you men out there. A majority of the information that I’ve found about veganism and cruelty free products often seems produced by and for a female audience regarding products that women would be more interested in. This blog discusses animal rights and veganism but focuses on ethical and green male fashion.

Leaping Bunny

I’ll say it again and again, use the Leaping Bunny List as your guide to cruelty free shopping if you don’t want to make your own list. Every company listed does not have any animal testing of its ingredients or during any stage of production. The brand also can not hire another company to test their products at any stage of production. The CCIC also ensures that an independent, third party audits these companies to confirm their claims.

These products are all cruelty free, but you must personally review each product and company to determine if they are vegan. For more information, I have an entire post dedicated to this topic to the right under July 2011.

The Vegan Society

I’ve just started researching The Vegan Society (website), but so far I like what I see. Similar to The Leaping Bunny Program above, the Vegan Society has the vegan sunflower trademark in which products must meet standards similar to leaping bunny’s but in addition must be vegan. They have a great tool to find companies registered with them here and a more detailed description of their standards can be found here. I plan on writing a more in depth post about The Vegan Society soon.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guide for Sending and Interpreting Animal Testing Emails

If you have some time and the desire to do so, you can easily do your own cruelty-free research. I strongly recommend doing your own research, even if only to confirm that a list you are using is cruelty free. When I email a company, I try to include the correspondence in my posts both to let you draw your own conclusions and to show how I word my emails and what to expect in return. Before I started emailing companies regarding their animal testing policies, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. So I have some tips and information to help you send your own emails, what to expect, and tips for analyzing a response.
If you would rather look over a list than do your own research, please use the Leaping Bunny guide here and review my post on Leaping Bunny under July 2011. I personally recommend the Leaping Bunny List over PETA’s cruelty free shopping list. Even with this list it is good to check up on a company if you suspect that they may not be cruelty free.
Before sending an email, check the company’s website for an FAQ section where they would usually post information about their animal testing policies. This may or may not help you out. Some companies do not include this information while others only include partial information. If the FAQ section only lists partial information or is unclear and confusing to you, still feel confident about sending an email.
Writing the Email
The most important part of sending an email, is to make sure you include all the question you want a response to. If you simply shoot off an email asking, “Does your company animal test?” you may not receive the same answer I would.
The four imperative questions to ask are:
  • Are your company’s finished products tested on animals?
  • Are your products’ ingredients tested on animals?
  • Does your company hire a third party to perform these tests on your behalf?
  • Does X have a parent company? If so, what is the parent;s company's animal testing policy? (This can be omitted depending on your feeling toward animal testing parent companies.)
  • Does your company sell products in China or any other country which requires or reserves the right to animal test products sold there?
Here is an example of an email I have sent recently:
“I was unable to find any information regarding your company's animal testing policies on your website. Could you please send me some information regarding the testing of finished products and ingredients on animals as well as any third party animal testing commissioned by your company? Please also let me know whether your company is a subsidiary and if so the name of its parent company.
If your company does meet these standards, I would urge you to consider registering for free with the CCIC’s Leaping Bunny Program.
Thank you in advance for your time and help.”
Another Example:
“I was reviewing Burt's Bees animal testing policy on your website. I read "Burt's Bees does NOT conduct product or ingredient tests of any kind on animals." but I am curious if there are also no animal tests conducted by a third party on your company's behalf.
Any information you could provide will be helpful.
Thank you in advance for your time and help.”
I personally add information about the Leaping Bunny Program and thank the recipient of the email who is usually a Customer Service representative. Once you send your email, you will often see a message thanking you and letting you know how long it will take to receive a response. This time usually varies between two to five business days.

The real work begins once you receive your response. The responses that make me the angriest go:
“We do not conduct or ask third-parties to conduct any animal testing on products, raw materials or components of finished products unless required by federal or local regulators.” (taken from Clorox’s website)
1) Always look out for the words except and unless!
The above sentence looks pretty good until the last clause. Off the top of my head, I know that Clinique and MAC do this. It makes me so angry, and I wonder why so many people consider these brands cruelty free. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does not legally require animal testing!
Tangent: While it is true that in some cases the only credible tests for certain ingredients/products do require animal testing by the FDA, all these companies talk about how long and how much money they have put towards finding alternative tests. So why is there no credible alternative test?
2) Did they actually answer my questions?
First off did they answer every question you asked from the bulleted list above? Secondly, did they answer your question or simply say they follow certain guidelines or believe certain things? If so, make sure to research these guidelines thoroughly no matter how legitimate it sounds and beliefs are not legally binding.
In my Revlon post (to the right under October 2011), the company responded by saying not that they don’t test but that they “were in compliance with all European-wide bans on testing of cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients using animals, which are part of the European Cosmetics Directive.” I didn’t have to spend much time doing research before I realized that they could be compliance with these rules and still be animal testing.
3) Too many adjectives?
When I get an email back that contains too many adjectives in general or odd ones with words which usually don’t use adjectives I get suspicious. In some cases, I don’t think I’ll ever know whether some phrases are legally concealing horrible things or if they just had an awkward writer. Whatever the case, if I feel uneasy about something I usually avoid those products.
4) Its alright to cheat!
If you’ve been looking over the email and still aren’t sure, its ok to see what other people think! I often see what some knowledgeable youtubers and bloggers have concluded if I’m having some problems. My sole stipulation is to only take into consideration people who have some reasoning. Make sure the author provides correspondence, links to credible articles, etc. to back up their case. I trust and recommend Kristy (veggiebeauty) who has a great list. Although she doesn't discuss each brand, she lists the requirements to be on her list.
Remember: It’s not tedious, it just requires some thought and foresight!