Skip to main content
Home » Vegan Living » What Does “Cruelty-Free” Really Mean?
Vegan Living

What Does “Cruelty-Free” Really Mean?

Photo: Courtesy of Obie Fernandez on Unsplash

Kim Paschen

Program Manager, Leaping Bunny Program

The Leaping Bunny Program is the highest standard for companies that are committed to no animal testing. In order to be approved for inclusion in the Leaping Bunny Program, companies that produce cosmetic, personal care, and household products must make a voluntary pledge to clear animal testing from all stages of product development. The company’s ingredient suppliers make the same pledge and the result is a product guaranteed to be 100 percent free of new animal testing. 

All Leaping Bunny companies must be open to independent audits and commitments to the program are renewed on an annual basis. 


The program was created in 1996 when a group of animal protection organizations in the United States and Canada came together to combat the issue of greenwashing, which became prevalent in the 1990s. In essence, companies, realizing the benefits of marketing a product with “no animal testing” or similar slogans, began to make various claims (and thus devised their own cruelty-free logos) without having to substantiate them, because no regulatory oversight of the term “cruelty-free” existed (and to date, still doesn’t). 

The Leaping Bunny Program operates on a Corporate Standard of Compassion for Animals, a standard to which all companies must adhere. 

Many consumers are also concerned about formulations containing animal products and should be aware that the term “cruelty-free” is not an assurance for a vegan purchase. While it can certainly be argued that the term should be applied more broadly beyond just animal testing, it has come to be synonymous with “no animal testing” in the personal care and household products industries. 

Because ingredients are required to appear on products’ labels, conscientious consumers who do not wish to use formulations that contain animal-derived ingredients can check to see whether a product is entirely plant based. Therefore, a Leaping Bunny certified company is not necessarily vegan, though dozens of certified companies have self-identified as such, so there are still plenty of exclusively plant-based choices available.

To view a list of Leaping Bunny-certified companies, visit and download its free app to make shopping compassionately even easier!

Next article