the art of asking about animal testing

There’s been a couple of posts on here, on this tricky issue. It’s too easy to ask “do you test?” and a company to answer “no.”

Here, from recent correspondence, are some refinements to add; plus an open question. 

[UPDATE]: and here are (1) the links I’d have put up if I’d first posted this whane I wasn’t kinda sorts on my way to bed, and (2) the main body of this post, that I’d have put up if the WordPress app on a smartphone at f***-o’clock had let me do sdidn’t post. WordPress app, for the record, IS NOT FIABLE. Harumph.

1. QUESTIONS ASKED PREVIOUSLY

Basically:

1. Are your products cruelty-free? That is: no animal testing by you, or by third parties on your behalf, on finished products and on ingredients?
2. What is your animal-testing status for markets requiring it (e.g., China)?
3. Where are your products made, their raw materials sourced, and what are the animal testing requirements there?

(that second post above is an example)

Elaborate version (from the first post above):

When emailing companies asking about their cruelty-free status, I used to ask this question:

Are you cruelty-free?

Which is, with hindsight and knowing about manufacuturing and global-market developments in the last 10-15 years, not entirely sensible. Might even be a stupid question. See, it could perfectly easily ellicit this answer:

Yes.

and maybe even the elaboration

we believe in being cruelty-free

and that could very well be true, but doesn’t necessarily mean

we do not test out products or ingredients on animals, nor do we pay others to do so on behalf, at any stage in production up to and including selling them

See, it all hinges on are you (and how you interpret the verb “to be”).

So I’m now asking this instead:

Dear [brand X],

I’ve very much liked your mascara, but had a couple of issues I’d be keen to see resolved before I consider repurchasing.

I would be very grateful if you could answer the following questions:

1. Are your products cruelty-free? That is: no animal testing by you, or by third parties on your behalf, on finished products and on ingredients?

2. What is your animal-testing status for markets requiring it (e.g., China)?

3. Where are your products made, their raw materials sourced, and what are the animal testing requirements there?

Many thanks in anticipation,

[yours truly]

2. RECENT REFINEMENTS TO THE QUESTION

Email from Marlenne:

Hello,

My name is Marlenne and I am very passionate about animal rights, especially about animal testing, because being a girl I love beauty and unfortunately the reality is that, for now, most brands test on animals :\ So I have made my mission to spread the word about this issue and make it as easy as I can for other people to learn about this and make the transition from cruelty-filled to cruelty-free 🙂

Anyway, for the real reason I am contacting you: I love how thorough you are with your questionnaire to the companies and the effort that you put into it and into informing your readers. However, I think it would be great if you added a question when sending emails asking about their policies along the lines of why they are not cruelty-free certified.

Personally I don’t trust any company that is not cruelty-free certified by CCIC/Leaping Bunny. But now that I see someone that knows so much about the issue and that doesn’t seem to have that as a requirement I would like to know your reasoning behind that decision. Don’t get me wrong; I just really want to be well-informed on this issue, and learning about other points of view won’t do any harm.

Thank you so much and keep up the great work you have been doing! I will definitely start following your blog (which I only stumbled upon today) as a source for news on this.

Regards,
Marlenne

pinterest.com/perfectcircle

Reply:

Hi Marlene,

In principle, I agree: I’m a fan of the CCIC too, and I certainly agree that’s a good question to ask: “if you don’t have cruelty-free certification, why not?”

One issue is that there’s more than one kind of certification out there, worldwide; and I for one am more in favour of a fixed cut-off date policy for reasons of practicality and common sense, rather than more extreme positions. But individual positions will vary: and your question is a good one, as it triggers lots of responses (ex “because we’re certified with another scheme” and it’s one I’ve never heard of: that’s one way to learn new things!

But here’s a thing. Most companies adopting extreme anti-testing positions (and in their propaganda too) are ignorant of testing history, and some-to-many are jumping on the ethical bandwagon so as to get into this/our market, sell products sometimes at a higher price, and always: to make money.

See, any product containing water (for example: this goes for all common basic ingredients) contains an ingredient that has been tested on animals, to their, to ascertain what the lethal dose is. I value company honesty, and their respect and care for customers. I would rather buy from a company that’s open and honest about everything from ingredients to end product; and that will admit that at some point, even if it’s many human lifetimes ago, some of the ingredients they use have been tested on animals. That shows respect for the animals that went through these tests (mostly in the 1940s-1950s). And it shows awareness of the history of testing: and caring about the truth, and getting things right.

I try to stay as wary and skeptical around all companies whose aim (they’re all businesses after all!) is to sell me stuff. It’s only fair and just to be wary around the ones who claim to be cruelty-free too.

I’m probably more wary now, as we’ve seen recently how big organizations like PETA (with lots of resources and staff) can get things wrong: with Hard Candy a few months ago. With publishing limited, oversimplified information about how the testing situation is evolving in China. On that last one: again, I’d prefer honesty: if something’s changing, it’s less black-and-white and more grey, there’s no definite answer, there’s work in progress going on: I’d prefer to hear that.

So yes: yours is a splendid question to add. I’ll think about it some more; I feel we ought to be able to think up and add on some more sneaky trick questions, to sort out companies who really are cruelty-free and doing it for the right reasons, because it’s the right thing to do. And separate out companies doing it for fashion, or who don’t know (and don’t care) and may even say “yes, sure, no testing” just to keep a customer happy.

We need to keep the beauty industry on its toes!

I’ll add this on the blog. We’ll see if other people can add to the questions (especially sneaky ones), see how crowd-sourcing goes!

Thank you for the email: it was thought-provoking, and it’s always good to hear from and virtually meet other people who care about being cruelty-free!

Yours in solidarity,

Ginger

So: now: here’s the open question. In an idea world, how would you phrase these questions? What sneaky tricky questions would you add, to keep companies on their toes, to sort the sheep from the goats, and indeed the show up the bandwagon-jumpers and ethics-washers?

Also: I love “cruelty-filled” as the opposite to “cruelty-free.”

9 comments

  1. Sakara

    There isnt anything showing below “Here, from recent correspondence, are some refinements to add; plus an open question.”

    I use these questions when ever i ask – sandwiched between saying id love to know more and the more info they can give, the better i can inform my readers

    1 Do you test your ingredients and/or finished products on animals?
    2 If you answered no to question 1, do you get another company to test for you and do they use animals in their tests?
    3 Are you owned by a parent company or is this company the sole brand?
    4 Why do you not have information on animal testing on your website?
    5 Why do you not say on your products that you do not test on animals?
    6 Does your products have any animal ingredients?

    • gingerama

      Thanks! Yes, you’re completely right. I’ll fix it in a sec. That’s what happens when:

      (a) you’re on your phone using the WP app rather than the full version;
      (b) it’s past midnight;
      (c) you’ve been up since 6 and working since a bit before 8 till a bit after 7… and then some more later in the evening. Curses on the day job.

      Well, no, I love it really; but I do envy people who don’t work 50- to 70-hour weeks, where those hours are intensive and focussed. Also, thank you deities who created weekends, so that the overworked brain can rest and recuperate!

      I do envy professional bloggers though. I know, you guys work hard too, and all respect for it!

        • gingerama

          (((hugs))) sorry!

          Also: post now updated. WP app is glitchy, most of the post I wrote & copy-pasted last nigth DID NOT APPEAR boo hiss groan. I’ve fixed that, as well as adding the links to old posts here about asking questions.

          My “I’ll fix it in a sec” did turn into “after we’ve been to look at an apartment for sale nearby, gone to the shops, bought nice fresh bread and houmous and stuff, returned home, put out the trash (himself, heroically), cleaned out (both of us) the cupboard that onions and flour and some other dry stuff live in and where something vegetable had dies and given rise to new animal life, returned onions etc. to their happy home, and started some exploratory munching of the bread.”

          • Sakara

            hahaha well productive at least.I do love a nice fresh bread..the interesting kinds, like one we can get here – carrot and pumpkin..oh that is YUMMY!

          • Sakara

            uhuh….i try not to buy it often because i can literately sit there with a slab of butter and a knife and work my way through the whole thing!

            I’m really liking this perfecting of questions to send to companies, great idea! My brain cant think of anything useful right now, but if something magically pops into my noggin i’ll add to the list!

  2. anna3101

    Thanks for this post. I’m planning to do an extensive mailing to all of the brands I use, just to reconfirm they are cruelty-free, and I will definitely use the questions here. I just wonder how many letters will get a reply… Am I the only one who’s so often ignored by the companies or is it the general rule?

    Regarding the certificates: I also prefer things that are certified with Leaping Bunny, BDIH or Vegan Society (actually, I’m trying to buy only those right now) but once again, this comes down to a question of money. There are some companies that are small and cannot afford the luxury. Another reason – and very much THE reason here in Poland where theoretically speaking we have our own leaping bunny of sorts but very few companies are on the list – is because cosmetics have ingredients of animal origin (honey, collagen, caviar etc). I think this is not fair because not everyone is vegan/vegetarian but it doesn’t mean they also have to buy “tested on animals”.

    Anyway, what I wanted to say is that I wouldn’t cross out the company immediately just because it’s not certified. I would give the benefit of doubt – a very little benefit, but still.

    • gingerama

      Thank you Anna: excellent points.
      See, I’m European too, by nationality and family and background and upbringing. I’m currently in Canada, have also lived for six years or so in the USA, but otherwise I’ve lived in assorted countries in Europe. This means that my feathers get a bit ruffled by Anerican prejudice and assumptions, and that includes organizations (however good they might be) based in the USA and with the USA as their default position, perspective, state of mind, centre of the universe. The result is cultural imperialism: putting PETA in the same boat, paradoxically, as McDonalds etc.

      Add in the fact that companies–even small ones–operate on a global market. Thanks to the Internet and useful things like EBay, Etsy, AbeBooks; it used to be only big multi-/ inter-/ trans-nationals who could sell stuff all over the world. That was a time when PETA were relevant outside the USA. But they haven’t yet fully caught up with some facts of life of 2012:

      1. There are companies elsewhere in the world too.
      2. Non-American companies sell stuff to Americans (whether a company has a base in the USA or not).
      3. There are other people in the world, outside the USA.
      4. They buy stuff locally, from their broader region (ex Europe), and from elsewhere around the world. That includes American and multi-etc-national companies, but to the 2012 buyer/consumer, these are now companies like any other on this global marketplace. It’s democratizing. It’s also maybe one of the best things to have happened to trade with & by companies in the developing world including coops: though I’m not deluding myself, there’s still pillaging going on (ex Josie Maran argan oil products…).

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