Class-action lawsuit over “cruelty-free” label

Estee Lauder, Avon, and Mary Kay used to be among the largest corporations to be included on PETA’s cruelty-free lists.  Being on PETA’s list is HUGE — the majority of consumers (a recent survey says as many as 72%) oppose animal testing for cosmetics and only purchase those that are “cruelty-free”.

But Estee Lauder, Avon and Mary Kay are now on PETA’s shit list.

According to Market Watch, five consumers have filed a $100 million class-action lawsuit against cosmetic companies Estee Lauder, Avon Products, and Mary Kay over the companies’ alleged misrepresentations that their products were “cruelty-free” when in fact the companies were testing their products on animals.

The Class Action complaint alleges that Estee Lauder, Avon and Mary Kay purposely defrauded consumers by falsely claiming that their products were not tested on animals when, in reality, the companies knew full well that they had begun testing various cosmetic products on animals. The complaint further alleges that the companies deliberately misled the American public by claiming their products were “cruelty free” at the same time the companies undertook animal testing in order to sell their products in China and reap hundreds of millions of dollars in Chinese sales. 

Courthouse News has a copy of the complaint here.

This class action looks like a plaintiffs’ attorney’s dream.  Two of the companies don’t even appear to dispute that they tested their products on animals despite being on the “cruelty-free” list.

Avon (via Courthouse News) had this dodgy and roundabout statement to say about their testing of cosmetics on animals:

 “What I can tell you is Avon’s commitment not to test on animals is the same as it has been for over twenty years: except where required by local law, Avon neither conducts nor requests animal testing in order to substantiate the safety of its products,” Vargas wrote. “Avon does business in over 100 countries, and some select products may be required by law in a few countries to undergo additional safety testing under the directive of a government or health agency. In these instances, Avon will first attempt to persuade the requesting authority to accept non-animal test data. When those attempts are unsuccessful, Avon must abide by local laws and comply with that government’s testing requirements.”

Mary Kay, who appears to have bigger balls and a better spokesperson than Avon, simply admits that it tests its products so that it can sell them in China,  “There is only one country where we operate where that is the case and where we are required to submit our products for testing – China.”

Listen, if a company tests their products on animals so that it can sell them in certain countries — that constitutes animal testing.

When I buy eyeliner that is marketed as “cruelty-free,” I’m not buying it just because I think that specific eyeliner was never tested on an animal.   I’m buying it because I believe that the company shares and promotes a similar moral/ideological/hippy world view as I do — that no matter how awesome eyeliner might be, it isn’t awesome enough to justify painting it all over little tiny adorable bunny eyes (or whatever they test stuff on).


Seems to me that if you are going to market your company and your products as “cruelty-free”  then you should be “cruelty-free” wherever you sell your products.  And if you have to test on animals so that you can sell your products in another country, than label your products as “mostly cruelty-free” or “cruelty-free in America”  or “sometimes cruelty-free.”

~ by siouxsielaw on March 3, 2012.

9 Responses to “Class-action lawsuit over “cruelty-free” label”

  1. I genuinely had no idea that China required products to be animal tested. I understand that’s a giant market for companies, but if they’ve made the commitment not to animal test (for the sake of winning over hundreds of thousands of consumers in the US and Europe), why go back on their word and risk losing them in the process? I’ll admit that I’ve shopped a few of these brands because I knew they were officially cruelty-free and I feel a bit taken now. I do wonder, though, if Lauder is on that list, are all the Lauder companies pulling similar things? They own a lot of other brands.

    • I felt taken as well when I read about the allegations.
      I don’t know the specifics about Lauder — but from what I have read online and in the complaint, it sounds like if Origins and Aveda and other Lauder companies sell in China, they must be testing as well.

  2. is it worth pointing out that there’s something deeply disturbing about the “Cruelty free” bunny logo?

  3. As a consumer, the deceit disgusts me.

    To me,a “Cruelty Free” designation means no animal testing period; not that they test on animals “where required by law”. Consumers pay more for “Cruelty Free” products as it has been drilled into us that the procedures to do so cost more (although that was true years ago, I am not sure that would be the case anymore).

    I would prefer that they refused to market in countries that still require animal testing as it might force those countries to change their legal requirements. But if they are going to continue the practice, I agree with you that there needs to be a different designation on the label or it should be left off entirely.

  4. China requires animal testing? I had no idea. I didn’t think they had a lot of regulation.
    The world is much smaller than it used to be. Companies cannot behave badly in one part of the world, and not have it impact the rest of the market.

  5. I’d be really interested to know also what the specific regulations are about testing. It seems to be this really murky area – we vaguely “know” that there are these certain ingredients that “have to” be tested to fit different laws… but what are those ingredients and what are the kinds of laws they’re trying to fit? Meaning, say I make a face wash that’s entirely lemon juice… do I have to test that? (Lemon juice just as an example of something that’s been around forever, used in a million products, available elsewhere, etc.) What about if I want to sell it in China? We all know that if you get lemon juice in your eyes, it will sting; it will probably even hurt your eyes if you keep it in there for a long time. Does that still have to be re-proven in animal tests?

    Or does the need for testing only kick in when there’s new synthetic elements in products? Or… what, exactly?

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