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A guide to cruelty-free and animal testing certification

We researched the different non animal testing certifications and programmes to find out which are strongest, from Leaping Bunny to The Vegan Society.

Here we examine which non-animal testing certifications and programmes you can trust in the UK, including:

  • Which independent non-animal testing certifications and programmes are the strongest
  • What the requirements are of different certifications and programmes

For a brief introduction to what constitutes strong policies and criteria read our quick guide to non animal testing policies.

Which non-animal testing certifications are strongest?

All of the following certifiers provide some assurance against animal testing and have their own merits. We consider it to be positive for a product to be certified by any of these certifiers when it comes to animal testing. 

For small companies especially, we reflect it positively in their Animal Testing rating if they are certified by any one of these schemes. Read more about how we rate companies under Ethical Consumer’s Animal Testing category in our introduction to non animal testing policies.

The Best

Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny Programme and Naturewatch Foundation’s Compassionate Shopping Guide are listed joint #1 in our guide to no animal testing certifications. 

Naturewatch Foundation’s guide has unparalleled scope and is the only certifier that requires the whole company group to abide by its no-animal testing requirements. 

However, Leaping Bunny outstrips the guide when it comes to auditing and verifying that claims are being lived up to in reality.

These are the only schemes which require Fixed Cut-Off Dates. Our introduction to non animal testing policies has more detail on fixed cut-off dates.

Logo: Cruelty Free International Logo

The best for verification: Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny Programme

When it comes to verifying whether or not a no-animal testing policy is being implemented, Leaping Bunny is the clear first choice. 

No other animal testing certification puts as much resource into auditing suppliers and ingredient manufacturers to check that they understand the non-animal testing requirements (which can be complex - read on to see why!) and are implementing them on an ongoing basis.

Under the Leaping Bunny Programme both raw materials and ingredients suppliers are all checked for any and all animal testing on an annual basis. 

It requires brands to implement systems and procedures to ensure ongoing compliance. This is verified by independent audits of every brand participating in its programme every 2-3 years. 

In order to participate in the Leaping Bunny programme, the whole brand must have a fixed cut-off date (see ‘What is a fixed cut-off date? in our introduction to animal testing policies). 

Some brands and also certifiers permit animal testing where it is required by law, but as many countries globally require animal testing to take place, this could actually be seen to be a very lenient caveat. Leaping Bunny’s exception (see table below) tries to minimise this risk, which no other brands explicitly addressed. 

While this doesn’t match the scope of the Compassionate Shopping Guide (see below), it does cover the whole brand so it has a broader scope than product-only certifiers.

Leaping Bunny allows exemptions for animal testing if a regulatory agency demands a test for an ingredient which is already on the market for cosmetics or household products, and when the test isn’t for cosmetic or household product purposes, over which a brand has no control. (However, in the US and Canada Leaping Bunny criteria is less stringent than this).

Logo of naturewatch foundation

The best for scope: Companies listed in Naturewatch Foundation's Compassionate Shopping Guide

In many cases a company, brand or product may appear to abide by stringent animal testing policies, but the parent company that owns it does not share these policies. This means you might buy a product that looks to be certified cruelty-free, but actually when you buy it you are adding to the revenue of a company group that is involved in animal testing.

NatureWatch Foundation’s Compassionate Shopping Guide is the only organisation featured in this guide that provides assurance that the whole company group has clear policies against animal testing.

This enables consumers to financially support companies that share their core values throughout all their operations, and avoid companies that don’t. It certifies non-vegan products, but does specify which are vegan in its guide.

Naturewatch Foundation has just released the 16th edition of its Compassionate Shopping Guide, which lists brands that it considers to have stringent no-animal testing policies. Naturewatch Foundation’s Compassionate Shopping Guide operates on a small scale in comparison with the other programmes and certifiers - only a few hundred brands feature in its guide. This is likely because it expects the whole corporate family to abide by its criteria, and this is significantly less common than just subsidiaries, brands or products meeting specific criteria.

The Compassionate Shopping Guide is one of the longest-running cruelty-free guides. The guide is available for free online or you can buy a print copy.

The Rest

Although we consider Leaping Bunny and Naturewatch Foundation's approaches to be particularly strong when it comes to tackling animal testing, all of these certifications have merit.

PeTA animal testing logo

Peta: provides some scope

Peta certifies at brand or company level, so provides a bit more scope than product-only certifications. 

It doesn’t operate a fixed cut-off date, and provides the option of vegan or non-vegan certification.

Peta has an especially stringent approach when it comes to exemptions. If a company has a policy that permits animal testing when explicitly required to by law and is actively working to change these requirements, it is only eligible for Peta’s ‘Working for Regulatory Change’ certification (Peta says only 5 companies qualify for this).

Logo: Vegan Society

The Vegan Society: product-only certification, but a holistic approach to animal rights

The Vegan Society is the only certifier that requires all products it certifies to be free of animal testing and animal ingredients, so it’s approach is arguably more of a holistic or consistent approach to animal rights and welfare than other certifiers. 

It is also the only organisation to have provided an expansive definition of the word ‘animal’ (ensuring that it includes for example daphnia, which other certifiers do not specify). 

Under its certification it prohibits suppliers from testing the ingredient sourced on animals, but only for that brand/product. This means that technically a brand’s supplier could have tested the ingredient on animals for another brand or purpose, and this ingredient could end up in a Vegan Society certified product. 

We asked The Vegan Society about this and it responded “Whilst rare, it is sometimes the case that an ingredient or raw material that has not been tested for our Vegan Trademark client may have been tested on animals for another product/company. In reality, this information is disclosed to The Vegan Society as part of our audit and we make our clients aware of this. They will usually then select another supplier who has never tested their ingredient or raw material on animals.” 

Although it said this was “rare”, it is still possible for recently animal-tested ingredients to end up in The Vegan Society-certified products.

Logo of Vegetarian Society

The Vegetarian Society

Under Vegetarian Society Approved certification, the supplier must not have tested the sourced ingredient on animals for the purposes of manufacturing that product/at the behest of the owners of the certified product. 

Like Vegan Society, it only provides assurance that no animal testing has taken place on ingredients specifically in order to produce the certified product. Vegetarian Society does not ask suppliers about whether the ingredients in the product have been tested on animals for any other reason, or operate a fixed cut-off date.

It provides the option of vegan or non-vegan certification, and only certifies at product level.

Logo: Soil Association

Soil Association

Organic certifier Soil Association has been included as an example of a certification scheme that briefly addresses animal testing.

Under Soil Association certification, suppliers are prohibited from testing the sourced ingredient on animals for the specific product or brand that has been certified. As with The Vegan Society and Vegetarian Society, this also means suppliers could therefore be testing the ingredient on animals, and these ingredients could end up in a Soil Association certified product as long as the testing wasn’t carried out for the sake of making that product. 

It certifies at product level.

Requirements of different non-animal testing certifications and programmes

Scheme Parent company must also be certified Scope of criterion Suppliers prohibited from testing ingredient for that product/brand Suppliers prohibited from testing  that ingredient for any reason Explicitly covers ingredient ‘manufacturers’ in the supply chain Fixed Cut-Off Date required Must be vegan
Naturewatch Foundation (companies in its Compassionate Shopping Guide) Yes Whole corporate family Yes Yes No Yes No
Leaping Bunny No Company or brand Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Peta No Company or brand Yes Yes No No No
The Vegan Society No Product Yes No No No Yes
Vegetarian Society Approved No Product Yes No No No No
The Soil Association No Product Yes No No No No

See also our guides to laundry detergent and make-up, and our article on animal testing policies.