The cruelty-free movement for animal rights has been around for decades, and you could assume that the cruel practices many cosmetics and perfume companies were known for are largely abolished. So it's very surprising when you find out that many companies – most likely some of your favourite brands - are still choosing to endorse or practice animal testing, or use ingredients that are derived from cruel practices to animals.
The History of Animal Ingredients in Perfume
Animal ingredients have been used in perfume for centuries. Some were (and occasionally still are) attained using cruel methods that harmed animals. These include:
No longer used:
Musk – attained by removing glands from a male musk deer to obtain a musk odour (which was used as both a fragrance note and a fixative in perfumes.)
Castorueum – beavers were caught and killed to remove their castor sacs and obtain a musk scent.
Still used today:
Civet - the civet (an African cat-like animal) is held in a tiny cage purely for the purpose of collecting the excretions for perfumery.
African stone – derived from the aged excrement of the African hyrax, a small mammal. While the practice of obtaining African stone is cruelty-free, vegan perfume buyers will still want to avoid this one.
Ambergris - ambergris (a substance derived from sperm whale digestive secretions) is still commonly used in both synthetic and natural perfume. In the past the whales were often caught and killed for this purpose, but nowadays the ambergris is collected as ocean waste and not actually removed from the animal.
Thankfully nowadays most of the barbaric practices that harm animals for scent extraction for perfumery are eradicated, and similarly smelling ingredients are mostly synthetically manufactured. However, the practice of testing products on animals is still, surprisingly, widely used by many well-known cosmetics and fragrance brands or their contractors or suppliers.
Unfortunately, for the most part perfume companies don’t label their products with such details, so the buyer often has no idea about the ingredients that make up their perfumes, whether they be natural or synthetic, or whether or not the company has a cruelty-free policy and practice.
How to Find Cruelty-Free Perfumes
Many perfume and beauty companies have been known for having questionable practices around animal testing and animal ingredients, so it can be difficult to determine what is an ethical product and what is not. Furthermore, research suggests that many large perfume companies may only be declaring around fifty percent of their ingredients on the label, so it is likely that there are many ingredients you will never be aware of.
The best way to ensure you are choosing cruelty-free perfume is to pick a product that declares itself, and preferably is registered, to be cruelty-free, and has a transparent policy on labeling and ingredients.
For the most part, these companies are often natural perfume brands, but not always. If you need more assurance than that, ask for a positioning statement on animal testing, or make sure they are registered with a cruelty-free certifying organisation.
If you are looking for a perfume that is not only cruelty free but also vegan, be sure to look for that information on the label. If there is nothing on the label to state that it is vegan perfume, or made entirely from botanical ingredients, chances are the perfume still contains some animal-derived ingredients.
There are so many beautiful ethical, natural perfumes out there, and more being launched each year.
By choosing to buy natural, ethical perfumes you are not only contributing to a more friendly and loving planet, but a healthier one too.