Cruelty Free vs. Vegan vs. plant-based: what’s the difference and why it matters
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Wait, they’re not all the same? Getting your head around these terms and understanding the difference when you first go vegan can be confusing.
Or maybe you didn’t realise there was a difference at all – I certainly didn’t when I went vegan!
Here’s a simple rundown of each term, what they mean and why it’s important to know the difference.
Are ‘vegan’ and ‘cruelty-free’ the same thing?
The two labels are often used interchangeably but they actually don’t mean the same thing. Cruelty-free doesn’t automatically mean a product is vegan, and vegan products aren’t always cruelty-free. Confusing, huh? Let’s break it down.
Cruelty-free means the ingredients/components and final product have not been tested on animals.
It refers to the testing process, not the ingredients, which means it is possible for a cruelty-free product to contain non-vegan ingredients, such as honey, beeswax, collagen, or gelatin.
The term ‘vegan’, as you probably know by now, means a product or food doesn’t contain any animal ingredients.
This means that a product can be cruelty-free and not vegan, as well as the other way around.
The best option is to seek out both vegan and cruelty-free descriptions on a product. This is harder to find, but not impossible, especially as demand grows and companies respond.
When a product claims to be both ‘cruelty-free and vegan’, it means it was not tested on animals and it does not contain animal products or ingredients.
Why is testing on animals bad?
More than 115 million animals are burned, poised, crippled and abused in laboratory experiments around the word each year.
Besides the horrible things these animals have to endure, animal-testing is also incredibly unreliable and wasteful.
Cruelty-free and vegan certifications you can trust
Brands can make a range of claims on their packaging, so look for accreditation logos like the ones below.
If you’re looking to avoid animal testing, ingredients, by-products, and other sorts of animal cruelty in your purchases, then it’s important to familiarise yourself with all of the different labels and logos, and who is verifying them.Ethical Elephant
Vegan products are easier to identify – just look at the ingredients list. However, there’s a lot more to ‘cruelty-free’ claims than meets the eye. For a deeper look into cruelty-free certifications, Ethical Elephant has a very comprehensive round-up.
What’s the Difference Between ‘Plant-Based’ and ‘Vegan’?
Where ‘cruelty-free’ mainly refers to products, the term ‘plant-based’ is associated with diet.
A plant-based diet predominantly consists of plants. Most people use the term to refer to a 100% plant diet, but some people include small amounts of animal products. A vegan diet totally eliminates all animal products.Brian Wendel – Forks Over Knives
Why do both terms exist? ‘Plant-based’ stems from the health science community, where it was more appropriate than “vegetarian” or “vegan” because it doesn’t give any ethical connotations or mean “never eating animal products”.
You could also use the term “whole foods, plant-based” to describe a diet made up of mostly whole plant foods that are minimally processed.
A vegan aims to avoid cruelty-free products in all areas of their life, however someone following a plant-based diet may not choose to make that distinction outside of their diet.
why does knowing the difference matter?
- “Cruelty free” = this product and its ingredients were not tested on animals.
- “Vegan” = this product does not contain animal products or ingredients.
- “Plant-based” = a diet made made up of entirely, or mostly, plant foods.
Understanding the difference between cruelty-free, vegan and plant-based terms means you can make more informed choices about the products you buy and companies you support.
Don’t worry about getting caught up in labels or putting yourself into one box for the rest of your life. Focus on making the best choices you can for yourself, the planet and animals.
Want to know more about these terms? Drop your questions in the comments!