What does 'vegan beauty' really mean?

It's a beauty trend that considers animal welfare but what about human health?

Vegan to many, is synonymous with plant based and natural. But a company toting a claim to veganism may, in other ways be unethical. Shannon Dunn investigates.

For the one per cent of Australians (according to a 2010 Newspoll survey) who have chosen to adopt a totally cruelty-free lifestyle, this extends beyond the dinner table to clothing and cosmetics. This involves close scrutiny of the companies behind certain products, the ingredients they use and whether they are responsible for ‘green washing’ – a term that describes business practices that falsely or non-transparently claim to use eco practices.

While Australia currently doesn’t have a vegan certification program, the United States and United Kingdom both have companies that issue a certified vegan stamp that helps consumers easily identify what’s cruelty free and what’s not. These stamps are given only to products that meet strict criteria. The standards set by the US Vegan Awareness Foundation requires that products approved to carry the certified vegan logo must:

• Not contain meat, fish, fowl, animal by-products (including silk or dyes from insects), eggs or egg products, milk or milk products, honey or honey bee products
• Involve no animal testing of ingredients or finished product by supplier, producer, manufacturer or independent party
• Provide supplier verification that animal products were not used in the manufacturing of ingredients
• Contain no known animal-derived GMOs or genes used to manufacture ingredients or finished products.

Australia currently has a cruelty-free certification, issued by not-for-profit organisation Choose Cruelty Free (CCF). While CCF is not strictly a vegan certification, they do provide a list of vegan CCF-certified products on their website (choosecrueltyfree.org.au). To become CCF certified, manufacturers take a cruelty-free questionnaire and application for accreditation, for which they have to meet the following standards:

• None of its products and none of its product ingredients have ever been tested on animals by it, by anyone on its behalf, by its suppliers or anyone on their behalf within the last fiveyears.
• None of the products produced by the manufacturer contain any ingredients:
• Derived from an animal killed specifically for the extraction of that ingredient;
• Forcibly extracted from a live animal in a manner that occasioned pain or discomfort;
• Derived from any wildlife;
• That are by-products of the fur industry; or
• That are slaughterhouse by-products of a commercially significant value (meaning the animal was not killed specifically for the ingredient, but that the ingredient was available due to the animal being killed for other purposes).

Many certified products from both the UK and US are available on the Australian market and, if not, can be also ordered online. But it’s worth bearing in mind that not every vegan product is registered or will bare a logo – although many companies refuse to certify vegan products that are owned by a parent company with different standards. Urban Decay, for example, has a vegan range of cosmetics that is uncertified. More than likely, this is because its parent company, L’Oreal, has a long history of unethical practices.

Here's how to spot vegan products the next time you're topping up your beauty cabinet.

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