Demand is growing globally for both vegan and cruelty-free products. However, while these terms are often used interchangeably, they do not necessarily mean the same thing. A product can be labelled as cruelty-free, for example, without necessarily being vegan. In this post, we answer the question; what’s the difference between vegan & cruelty-free? To help you understand what to look out for when shopping for food, beauty products and household items.

What does cruelty-free mean?

In short, products are labelled as cruelty-free when they, nor any of the ingredients they contain, have not been tested on animals. Cruelty-free products can, in theory, be anything, but there tends to be a focus on household products and cosmetics. This is because manufacturers of these have a historically poor record in relation to animal testing.

Cruelty-free products may be certified for added assurance that they have not been tested on animals. The main certification programmes are:


Leap[ing Bunny Logo
Beauty without bunnies logo
Choose Cruelty-Free Logo

Products bearing logos for these programmes have been independently verified to be cruelty-free. However, some of these programmes are more thorough than others in their verification processes.

Some manufacturers may choose not to be part of one of these programmes but instead self-assert that their products are cruelty-free.

It’s important to be wary about statements such as ‘this product has not been tested on animals’ because this does not necessarily mean its constituent ingredients haven’t been, but simply that the end product was not!

What does vegan mean?

In terms of food, cosmetics and household products, the term vegan on labelling means that a product does not contain any animal-derived ingredients. In theory, it should also mean that it, or any of the ingredients it contains, has not been tested on animals.

However, it is important to note here that when manufacturers self-assert that their product is vegan friendly, it may not be in the strictest sense. There have been instances of products that stated they were vegan on the label, which turned out to contain animal-derived ingredients such as honey, for example.

In other cases, a manufacturer may state a product is vegan friendly when they are unaware that some of their suppliers have tested the ingredients on animals.

The Vegan Society Trademark

However, this is not the norm, and usually, products labelled as vegan can be trusted. Products certified by The Vegan Society, and bearing this logo, have been independently verified to be vegan.

Why are cruelty-free products not always vegan friendly?

While cruelty-free products, and their constituent ingredients, have not been tested on animals, they may still not be vegan friendly. This is because they may contain animal-derived ingredients.


For example, a product may contain honey or beeswax, which is not vegan friendly because this was obtained via exploitation which vegans are against. However, if this product was not tested on animals, the manufacturer can assert that it is cruelty-free. In this sense, cruelty-free is a narrow term that does not actually mean the practices used to source the ingredients were not cruel.

We hope this has helped answer the question; what’s the difference between vegan & cruelty-free? Vegans have a much broader view of what actually constitutes cruelty to animals. If you are vegan, you must not fall into the trap of believing a product is vegan just because it is labelled as cruelty-free! Always check the label for animal-derived ingredients or for vegan-friendly status or certification.