How vegan are you?

by JL Fields on June 19, 2012

Yesterday I shared something quickly on Facebook.

I can’t lie, I love me some radical, unapologetic vegans! And I also love folks who jump in to appreciate victories, no matter how big or small.

This morning I did finally take a look at the packaging of the products.

The L’Oreal Sulfate-Free Ever Creme shampoo and conditioner:

The Neutrogena naturals:

Neither product was tested on animals.  I do see that one Neutrogean ingredient is “coconut/palm kernel derived”- I wonder what that may have to do with palm oil and the orangutans?

Some on Facebook suggested that if a company did any animal testing you shouldn’t buy from them.  Others had concerns about chemicals — I’m not sure if this concern was environmental, vegan or both.

I’m curious. If a company makes a vegan product in which they do not test on animals – but they may test on animals with other products – will buying the vegan, humane product help convince them to have better practices? Or is all lost and you should avoid any of their products?

How vegan are you?

  • Personally, I just look for products that are vegan (by ingredient and/or production) and environmentally friendly – and as chemical-free as possible. But, if the company sells other products that aren’t vegan friendly, I live with it. Ideally, I wouldn’t support any company that isn’t 100% vegan/environmentally friendly and toxin-free, but I doubt I’d be buying very many things :-/

  • I don’t like to buy from companies who test on animals so even if those particular ones weren’t, I wouldn’t buy them. I’d rather stick to vegan products from cruelty-free companies and/or vegan companies. I prefer more natural products as well.

  • Donna K

    I buy vegan – if they sell other products that are not I hope that my dollars and those of others will show them that there is a true market and the animals will benefit – curiously, even non vegans think that testing done on animals for health & beauty items is ludicrous, if they take the time to find out! On a side note, do hardcore vegans not take any medications as they were all once tested on animals even if those produced today do not do any testing once fda certs are reached?

    • JL

      Donna,this is a great question and I confess that I am on one daily medication and I have no idea how it was made or what is in it! Hmmmm.

      • Donna K

        crazy, isn’t it? I won’t take the med that is still made from pigs, but obviously the other synthetic was tested on animals as all are/were. At what point do we say no? Long before becoming vegan I thought using animals as test cases was wrong and abusive (all the while eating them!) for medical testing but my DH poses the question wouldn’t I be glad they did if it saved my child. I’d like to think I would still feel the same!

  • Wow, I really appreciated this whole discussion. I’m a breast cancer survivor and turned to a plant-based diet just 2 months ago (I love it!!). I’m now also starting to look at things like this–cosmetics, shampoo, cleaning products. It’s definitely a journey and there is a lot to learn. Thank you for sharing.

    • JL

      Teresa, thank you for saying hello!

  • Bringjoyj

    If a product is vegan & high quality & I need/want it, I will buy it. I won’t buy something just because it’s vegan.

    I’m really happy that two big brand names are catching on to consumer demand for cruelty-free products. I see this as a good thing. As for, how vegan am I? I know some vegan would say I’m not vegan enough, because I’ll eat something with honey it, or some gf bread with egg whites. Where do I draw the line? For me, I don’t buy any type of meat, eggs, fish, butter, milk, cheese, cream or eat these things. I try to support vegan & organic when I can. I would never eat any type of meat but something with butter or honey in it, depends on the occasion say if I was at a party, but I wouldn’t have the same dilemma as I would with eating meat.

  • ameyfm

    I try not to buy anything made by companies that do animal testing. As far as beauty products, this is relatively easy for me since I have no beauty regimen whatsoever… but still, I’m sure our house is full of things where I’ve fallen short – either out of actual ignorance or willful ignorance.

  • veganpilotmarty

    In an ideal world we would only buy products from companies that follow our ethics perfectly. But it’s not a perfect world and we don’t always have that choice. So I buy Silk Soy milk, for instance, even though I don’t support the parent company, Dean Foods. I firmly believe that we vote with our dollars and firmly believe that we have to do the best we can. We cannot be perfect. I’m going to start a blog, “Stop Chasing Perfection.”

    • JL

      Stop Chasing Perfection! Love it! 🙂

      • veganpilotmarty

        Yah, I know you have some spare time so thought you’d start ANOTHER blog.

  • Megan (sweeton)

    I think that you vote with where you spend your money, and it’s okay to buy vegan items from otherwise non-vegan companies. It may not be the ideal, but I think it’s also important to note that these items may be a great help for someone who doesn’t have access to specialty products or money to spend on something more expensive. Anything that helps someone make a better choice more easily is a step in the right direction!

  • Shelley

    They say you vote with your wallet…so if you chose to vote for a product that is vegan and cruelty free, the company will see that is where the demand is and over time it can make a big difference. Same with vegan foods and organic produce. The more we demand it, the bigger it will get and the more attention it will raise. Not everything has to be a grand all-or-nothing gesture. Little things do add up.

  • This is a big conundrum for me. I would prefer to buy only from 100% vegan companies that are aligned with my values but that just isn’t possible. So I do the best I can. Right now it’s a budget thing. When I have the money to spend I buy the best of the best. I like seeing big companies making efforts to sell vegan products but only if that doesn’t put the “little guys” who have always been vegan and cruelty-free out of business. But if we want veganism to go mainstream than it seems like big corporations offering more affordable vegan products is the way that is going to happen. A conundrum indeed!

  • Alex

    My gut is to say don’t buy from any company that tests on animals, even if the product is vegan. However, this is impractical and, in my opinion, slightly counter-intuitive. Companies don’t care about the ethical aspect – obviously, or else they wouldn’t test on animals anymore.

    With that, I say buy all the vegan products you can. The companies care about money. If they’re making money off of vegan products, they’ll sell more and cut products that don’t sell. As someone below said – we vote with our wallet. Money is the voice here, so use it.

  • This is a great post JL. I always try to buy cruelty-free products from reputable (legitimately green) companies, but I appreciate the fact that mainstream companies like loreal are selling non-animal tested products. However, while I feel that these companies are absolutely making a step in the right direction, they are not to be trusted! I know it sounds a bit conspiracy-theory, but I don’t think that they are making these choices out of ethical consideration, but rather a marketing strategy. I just don’t trust that they are being as careful (nor as honest) as they should be. For example, when I was a teenager I was obsessed with BonneBell lipsmackers; their company promoted all over the place that they didn’t use animal testing, and so as a young vegetarian, I trusted them. But I later found that they use animal products (carmine and tallow among them) in most of their lip and eye makeup. Horrifying, right?! Now I stick to a minimalist beauty routine, based mostly on coconut oil. No wacky chemicals, no unpronounceable words, no ‘derived from,’ just natural, gentle skin care (ahem, except for my mascara and occasional night-on-the-town eye makeup!) But, like others have said, kudos to your thoughtful neighbor who now understands veganism!

  • Caitlin

    what an interesting post! i enjoyed reading all of the comments below, as well.

    how vegan am i? well, i do not eat any animal products or by-products. i buy cosmetics that are vegan and not tested on animals. occasionally, i will check the back to see if it says “not tested on animals”, but most often i buy products I KNOW are cruelty-free-certified by leaping bunny. additionally, only purchase household cleaners/supplies that are cruelty-free and certified, such as method and seventh generation. i try my hardest to lead the lowest impact life as possible and am very cognizant of any product i purchase.

    but, of course, i’m not perfect, and no vegan is. i’m sure there are times i fail no matter how hard i try. whenever i read articles about how vegans shouldn’t wear seashells, or anything with feathers, etc, or “are almonds vegan?”, i get scared and begin to mentally begin to scan my wardrobe and question my dietary habits(like eating almonds). have i misstepped? am i not as dedicated as i should be?

    i think dialog like this is great, because no one can be a perfect vegan. there are too many variables in our day to day lives. but we try our hardest, and that’s all that matters. i think the more educated one is in veganism and the politics involved, it simultaneously gets harder and easier. it makes you not want to leave your house.

  • laurac

    I’m with many of the other commenters on this one. While I would definitely prefer to buy from 100% cruelty free/vegan companies, the only way for these big companies to know that the demand is out there is if their products sell. So I’d try these new products and then send the company an email with my review, thanking them for branching out into “our” market and encouraging them to make more of their products vegan friendly. They’re not going to know what we want unless we tell them.

    • Megan (sweeton)

      Emailing the company with feedback is a great idea!

  • PlantStrongMoma (Marsha)

    This is a very interesting post, JL! I’m liking all the comments as well. As someone who has only ventured into the vegan world 5 months ago I may not be vegan enough for some. But, for me veganism is a choice, a health choice. For me it’s not for ethical reasons, which may make me a “bad” vegan. Buying cruelty free products is something I am more aware of now but it’s nearly impossible to buy all cruelty free. Where do we draw the line? The furniture I sit on, the upholstery rather, may or may not have pig hairs (most upholstery does), I have no way of knowing. How about the car tires or brake fluid in your car? Both of which can be made using animal products or bi-products. Medications you are prescribed? Does a vegan ask if the doctor is prescribing meds without gelatin? That is difficult to do. I try my best not to judge how vegan another may be because compassion is what I would want for myself. I cannot get rid of all my leather shoes, it’s just not cost effective. As I can’t get rid of every product we currently use. Am I more aware, yes! Do I make conscious decisions now when buying new things, yes! But, for me if I say I’m fully vegan I would want that statement to be 100% true and in this world I just don’t think that’s 100% possible. Does this make me less vegan, oh probably. What’s important, I feed myself and my family in a healthy way to ensure they have proper nutrition. I also keep my family safe from preventable disease caused by poor food choices. Thanks for posting this, it’s a great way to see how others feel! 🙂

    • JL

      Thank you for this comment! I know, you have to think about everything, right? My car has leather seats. I’m not going to get rid of the car but when the time comes for a new car, I imagine I’ll think about this stuff.

  • I really like this post. In terms of how vegan am I? According to many I’m fairly hardcore in terms of what I put into my body or wear, etc. but I feed my cats meat. So, does that make me a bad vegan? There is no way to be a perfect vegan. The world doesn’t work like that. Taking baby steps and sometimes giant leaps is how we move the world in a more compassionate, healthy and sustainable direction. That’s what I care about and it sounds like that’s what most people here care about. I like it!

    • JL

      Christine, I feed my cats meat, too. I hear you!

  • Great discussion going here, JL. I love that our community is full of so many committed and compassionate people. I think it’s really important to point out, as many people have, that veganism is not about perfection but about doing the best you can. I don’t truly know what’s better in the long run, buying products from a company that tests on animals or uses animal ingredients despite the specific product being vegan, or buying from dedicated vegan companies. My heart says that I should support vegan companies because often the product is better (and made with love) and the company on a mission to end animal exploitation, which fits right in with my values. Part of me also thinks, though, that buying vegan products from non-vegan companies is a form of activism, though I know nothing about the inner workings of these companies so I could be sorely mistaken. That said, it all boils down to whether you did the best you could to not participate in the suffering of animals, whether your best is buying products from all-vegan companies or buying vegan products from non-vegan companies. Once again, it’s all about the effort, not perfection!

  • sendmorecops

    Neutrogena (owned by Johnson & Johnson) and L’Oreal are both on Peta’s list of companies who test, and neither is certified by leaping bunny. There aren’t any laws regulating the term ‘cruelty-free’, either, so it being on the package isn’t proof that companies aren’t third party testing or testing their ingredients. Also, L’Oreal is entering the Chinese market, which requires testing. They are absolutely NOT cruelty-free, I believe the leg they are trying to stand on is that they don’t test in the US, so their US products are still cruelty-free.

    There ARE drugstore brands that are cruelty-free so I don’t want anyone to think you have to drop a ton of cash to get vegan products. Buying from these companies won’t get them to stop testing, they just want our money which we can spend in better places, on better quality products. The best way to get them to change is to let them know that you still won’t buy their products unless they commit to being 100% cruelty-free.

    I’m not telling you all of this to be all ‘OMG YOU ARE NOT VEGAN ENOOOOOOUGH’, I just want everyone to have all of the information available to them so they can make informed choices. It is definitely a complicated issue that’s difficult to navigate!

    I’m actually putting together a blog all about vegan beauty and personal products, so it’s easier for people to trying and sort through this mess.

    • This! Unless it’s Leaping Bunny (or, at the very least Peta’s Cruelty Free), the “no animal testing” can mean just about anything because it’s not held to any standard aside from company policy in terms of what they think that means.

      I also recently did a post about the different “bunnies” and what they mean.

    • Melisser

      This is a great post, thank you!

  • Hannah B

    I know that life is full of choices and that they are not always easy…
    The thing about L’Oreal is that they are part owned by Nestlé, a company responsible for undermining breastfeeding in many countries. A baby dies every 30 seconds due to their mothers having been seduced into using formula milk by health professionals who have been persuaded to promote formula over breastmilk. Often, by the time the mum has realised that she can’t afford to buy the powdered milk and that finding clean water and sterilising bottles etc is almost impossible, her milk has dried up. So she is left to try to feed her child adequately with inadequate means. It is for this reason that I would not buy from L’Oreal.
    What is in infant formula?

  • James H.

    There was a discussion recently about vegan deodorants on a vegan Facebook group. I use Tom’s of Maine, since it a) works; b) is vegan; c) is available where I shop. But apparently Tom’s is owned by a big conglomerate (Colgate) that does do testing on animals. But Tom’s doesn’t. Is that vegan enough? It is for me. (And they are included on the cruelty-free shopping guide.)

    I tried some really expensive body and hair care products that were all-natural, plant-based, vegan, not-animal-tested… and they made me break out and gave me rashes. (These were from Max Green Alchemy, so beware.)

    • Shiny Happy Vegan

      Tom’s of Maine deodorant has palm oil 🙁 I have found that Adama ancient clay deodorant works better than anything else I’ve tried so far.

  • Hannah B

    Gosh, my comment seems to have been removed, How disappointing.

    • JL

      Patience, Hannah. Disqus puts comments with links in pending for approval. I’m not always at my computer. 😉

  • I can never decide whether I think it’s best to support new vegan products within a non-vegan brand, or simply just stick to the brands that have a global no-animal-testing policy. I wish I could say I had an answer, but I don’t! Right now all of my personal care items come from vegan companies (or at least, I do my best to ensure that; I’ve slipped up once or twice), but I also sometimes wonder about championing new vegan brands within bigger companies.

  • Donna K

    I would just like to add that I am soooo impressed with everyone being polite and respectful and not trying to force their opinion on everyone else – KUDOS to the group – I’m sure you are all aware how rare this can be if you follow any other vegan blogs, sites, etc. bring on the discussions – it is wonderful to have my thoughts and ideas challenged and see how I come out the other side with new/different information or perspective that I hadn’t heard before or in a manner that wasn’t force fed.

    • JL

      I have really enjoyed reading the comments, too! And how willing people are to be honest about their opinions and experiences. It warms my heart!

  • Wow, what a great discussion. I struggle with this delimma almost every day. Like just about everyone else here, I would love nothing more than to support 100% vegan companies. And while it’s probably technically possible, it would also be expensive and inconvenient. You can find just about anything you want in a vegan form, but some harder-to-find products are only online and sometimes from a different country. So I do what I can within my budget while still trying to remain true to my ethics. The Body Shop dosen’t test on animals, but they are owened by L’Oreal, who does. Do you go with the lesser of two evlis and support the brand that doesn’t test in hopes it will prod the mother company in the right direction? I don’t believe anyone can be 100% cruelty-free unless they move to a buddhist monastary.
    That having been said, I will keep a watchful eye on the products I use and review. It’s great that we have a strong vegan community to rely on for news; I probably never would have know that Urban Decay cosmetics will be sold in China, and thus is no longer on the Leaping Bunny list if it weren’t for other blogs that I follow. The best thing we can do is support the cruelty-free companies while making our voice heard to the big brands about what it will take to gain our loyalty.

  • Very interesting question which I’m on the fence about. Part of me wants to support a company’s attempt to go cruelty free and show a demand for such products. But just the thought of animal testing horrifies me to not wanting to support them at all.

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  • Grace McCarter

    I think it’s about options for others. If my boyfriend’s mom bought me a bottle of this for when I stay at their house, I wouldn’t argue too much, because she tries to support my veganism(She’s catching onto the whole food thing, and I think it’d be unfair to note about animal testing in that since, since she is trying to be so hospitable.)

    Regardless, would I buy it for myself or someone else? NO.
    The company tests on animals and I will not be putting money in their pocket in the way that I know(not buying).
    Regardless, there ARE vegans out there whom don’t have even a small local health food store(like mine) that sells personal care products. They either have to MAKE their own, or buy them, and I can understand the reasoning for buying it, most people don’t have time to make shampoo, and whatnot.
    Not to mention, shipping can be expensive! Save those dollars for your makeup or supporting a fully vegan company. 🙂

  • This is a subject that I think many of us trying to live cruelty-free are faced with daily. Giving up meat and dairy was the easy part. The real challenge comes when buying products…that’s when your commitment to this lifestyle is put to the test. I have said from the beginning, that beging vegan is a process that evolves continuously, with each day trying to be better than the day before. When I knew that I would have to change the products that I buy, I decided to change them one product at a time, when something ran out, then it was time to search for a better vegan product. This is not always to easy. If you go to the drug store, you will now find many products that are labled “green”, “cruelty-free”, or “vegan”. I have learned that one does not always mean the others. I would spend like an hour just standing in front of the face wash trying to find something that I could allow myself to buy. There are so many new “vegan” products now from companies that I have avoided, and they seem great. But I still can not buy one. I don’t want to give profit to those who still use animal testing, I would rather give my money to a company that will use it to help animals. But it is not easy to elliminate companies from our shopping cart that make non-vegan products. Many of the companies that make soy milk are conneccted with diary farming, but I still buy some of them. So like I said, it’s a process and as long as we are contiuously learning and making better choices, I think we will all make a difference one day. I have found so many great products from compaines that I have never heard of, some in my grocery store, that are vegan, organic and green. I now look for the small unheard of compaines and love to try new things. All this talk make me think I may have to do a blog post abou some of the great vegan finds I have discovered. 🙂

    • JL

      Great idea!

  • Ilana

    Definitely. I do the best I can, but I want to increase demand from the big companies, too. If they know they’re customers want more natural products, no animal testing, etc, then hopefully they would change their products.

  • I was looking through my kitchen the other day, and feeling very smug that the ONLY item in my pantry/fridge with more than one ingredient (not counting stuff I made myself) was a bottle of hot sauce (and that had three ingredients). I cannot say the same for the items in my bathroom, as “all natural” as my inclinations run. Something to change! On the question whether to seek out companies completey in alignment with our values, or to purchase, say, vegan items from not otherwise vegan companies – I try my best to make my decisions at the company level, rewarding companies whose whose entire operations fall under ethical guidelines I respect. If it’s not possible, then the next best thing is to at least pick the item that meets your criteria, as when it sells, it sends a message to the parent company. So, for example, with running shoes, I’ll go out of my way to find shoes manufactured in the USA, but there are no companies (that I know of) that aren’t outsourcing most of their production to Asia.

  • Robin

    I do my best to buy vegan products from ethical companies, but I’m not perfect. No one is, and we have to be thankful for any small steps people take to help animals. That being said, I would rather spend some extra money supporting a company that makes a truly cruelty-free product than one that is only offering a product line that targets the vegan market just to help their bottom line.

  • Amanda

    I am the opposite of vegan in the sense that I eat for what works for my health and what I like to eat (which is vegan) but not from an animal rights aspect (not that I disagree with it, that just not what drives my eating)

  • oh wow. i have found so much information in the comments on this post. i think i’d stay away from these big corps who dont change any of their policies really and for the all the reasons as so many pointed out. I’d rather support a business wholes policies are geared towards being cruelty free in all possible ways.

  • Sherry (BTLover2)

    Hi JL,
    This is a fantastic post and I love reading the insightful comments. I too try my best to buy cruelty-free, chemical free, organic and all-natural products when I can (try finding all of those in one product — that’s a challenge!). My intention is to make those choices whenever I can. It can be so tricky. But you learn as you go (and as you said, it’s a journey)! As I use up the items that are full of pollutants and animal products, I replace them with either a homemade version or something you can buy that meets all the right criteria (or as close as one can get). I think the future is going to provide some amazing options and I look forward to it. BTW, LOVE your blog. I’m new to the vegetarian/vegan world and soooo enjoy reading your posts. You inspire!

    • JL

      Sherry, thank you! I’m so glad you commented and joined in on the conversation. I appreciate your opinion!

      • Sherry (BTLover2)

        Also, I am in my 40’s and switched to a plant-based diet a few short months ago (with the intention of transitioning to vegan). I’ve really never been so healthy in my life. Aside from eating differently, I also exercise regularly and now wonder why it took me so long to figure it all out. I treated my body badly and now hope that these changes, which I love so much, will reverse any damage I did. I’ve so much to learn from you. XO

        • JL

          Wow! Go, Sherry, go!

  • Sally’s Beauty Supply has a product line called ion that makes vegan products and they work great. I went from a cream cleanser to the neutrogena naturals and it dried out my skin and I was very allergic to it so I had to switch back to the regular cleanser. 🙁

  • Susie Marks

    I feel the company wouldn’t do that. If they are doing, they are putting the brand’s name on stake. (I just hope they dont, coz I love the brand and definitely wouldnt want to stop using their products). Having said that, if the did, I’d be forced to stop.

    Susie Marks

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