Having worked in the beauty industry, I thought my knowledge on what constituted a cruelty-free brand was adequate. Then, I decided to start a blog and researched what really makes a brand cruelty free. My discoveries shocked me.
Firstly, it is illegal to test a beauty product on animals in the UK. It has been for quite some time. However, ingredients purchased from outside the UK may still be tested on animals before they reach the market. Meaning I could formulate my own lip balm, buy in ingredients from Asia and then although I have never tested the finished product on animals and my chosen cosmetic chemist has never tested the product on an animal, it still would not be cruelty-free because the ingredients were tested before they reached me.
That is shocking enough, but then there are brands like Yves Rocher. I absolutely adore Yves Rocher’s products and I love that they have such an altruistic approach to beauty products. None of their products are ever tested on animals. They take ingredients from natural sources and their whole ethos is that beauty should be natural. Their reputation was flawless. And then they opened a store in China.
In China, all beauty products must be tested internally before they reach the market. It isn’t enough that they have been tested in Europe and met our quality controls. They must also be tested by the Chinese authorities, on animals. China is a very traditional country with a completely different culture to my own and it’s a culture that does not have the same respect for animals that we do in Europe. So, despite being against animal testing, Yves Rocher still opened a store in mainland China, in Shanghai to be exact.
When I did further research into this, I found that they weren’t the only brand who claim to be against animal testing yet still opened up in mainland China. In fact, the only encouraging story I heard was of Urban Decay who opened up a store there but quickly realised that this was against their principles so withdrew from that market. It’s good to hear that someone took a stand!
Personally, I feel very conflicted about this. The press release I read about Yves Rocher’s reasons for staying in China made some sense. They essentially believe that change can only be made from the inside and by having a store in Shanghai, they can open dialogue with the Chinese authorities and show them how we test products safely and effectively without harming animals here in Europe. In many ways, I agree with this. It is easier to change a policy you disagree with by having conversations. You can’t change it if you withdraw from the situation completely.
At the same time, I don’t want to spend my hard-earned money on brands who only pretend to care because it’s trendy and when it comes down to it, really just want to make money in a very lucrative Asian market. How do we know who is trying to make a change and who is hungry for cash? Who do we trust? My own view is that I am going continue to buy from Yves Rocher. There are many brands out there who aren’t willing to attempt to open dialogue, many of them larger premium brands. It’s better to boycott those than the ones who are fighting for change. What’s your view?