Although most consumers rely on labels to guide them in their purchasing decisions, labels don’t always tell the entire story, particularly when it comes to veganism. While vegan has a very black-and-white definition, many people see shades of grey. “Like clean and green, there are different levels of veganism,” says Jillian Wright, cofounder of Indie Beauty Expo. “For example, if you consider honey and royal jelly to be an animal by-product, then you can’t use any products with honey. People have to decide for themselves how far they want to go.”
According to Shannon McLinden, FarmHouse Fresh is strict in its use of the term vegan. “Those who choose vegan believe kindness to animals goes well beyond cruelty—that if you cannot ask the animal if you can use its honey or its milk, then you should not use the ingredient,” says McLinden. According to her, confusion exists in the industry pertaining to the vegan label. L’Oreal faced criticism by some consumers after labeling a haircare product “100 percent vegan.” Although the product was free of animal products, it was tested on animals, which meant it wasn’t actually vegan-friendly.
While L’Oreal doesn’t test any of its products or ingredients on animals, it does retail its products in China, which still requires animal testing for specific products. “Customers want to know that a product is vegan, but at their heart, they also want to know that as a company, you are cruelty-free,” says McLinden. “These are seen as two separate issues. Many times, when I’m asked at our booth whether Honey the lowdown on labels Heel Glaze is vegan, and I respond, ‘No, it uses Texas wildflower honey,” customers will say, ‘Oh, that’s fine. Honey doesn’t count.’ So I really believe most customers want to support cruelty-free, which to them means abuse, confinement, and testing on, or the taking of an animal’s life.”
What it boils down to is that because the vegan label doesn’t take into account ethical considerations, it can be difficult for consumers to know if a product subscribes to their vegan values.