“Vegan-friendly” is one of those phrases you might see on personal care and bathroom products.
Brands use the language as a quick method of trying to assure vegans they can buy the item without any worries. It’s marketing shorthand for saying the product — at the very least — doesn’t contain any ingredients derived from slaughtered animals.
The term doesn’t have a legal definition, though, and there aren’t any organizations that attribute a meaning to the language. Even the Vegan Society doesn’t acknowledge it.
Brands invented the “vegan-friendly” language, and they are the ones who decide what it means. In most cases the label implies no animals died for the sake of the product.
“At first blush, this sounds good, because one would think it means that the product is cruelty-free and all-natural,” said David Pollock, a beauty guru with decades of experience developing personal care products. The problem, Pollock said, is vegan-friendly does not necessarily exclude animal testing.
Another issue is varying definitions of veganism. Being vegan is a label people apply to themselves, so they have the freedom to make exceptions and choose products others might not approve of.
Some vegans eat honey because they believe properly harvesting the ingredient doesn’t harm bees and that growing certain types of vegan food can actually be more disruptive to insect communities. There are also vegan activists who worry that making diets overly restrictive will limit the number of people who might be willing to join the vegan movement. Vegans who eat honey may not be adhering to the strictest guidelines, but they still abstain from meat and can fight to protect animals from cruel testing.
If you are a diehard vegan who wants to be more selective, consider restricting yourself to products with the Vegan Society Trademark or Leaping Bunny logo. You can also look at PETA’s database of approved brands.
The Vegan Society recommended consumers ask companies how they are defining vegan-friendly, and perhaps that is a solid strategy. After all, there are plenty of manufacturers that do not harm animals but haven’t bothered with certifications and labels. If the brand is trustworthy and transparent, they should honestly answer any question you have.
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