written by Lindsay Patton

For vegans, reading labels is a big part of the lifestyle. You need to scan the ingredients list for animal products that could be hiding, plus make sure what you’re buying is also cruelty free. 

Wait. What? The two are different? Yep. 

“Vegan” and “cruelty free” are two separate labels because they mean two different things. It sounds confusing at first, but when you break it down, the differences are pretty simple. If your goal is to cause as little harm to animals as possible, you’ll need to find products that are both vegan and cruelty free, and we’ll explain why. 

How do I know a product is vegan?

Veganism lives by this rule: no animal products. This includes food, clothing, beauty products, literally anything humans consume. If you are new to the lifestyle, you might be confused about what exactly you can and cannot consume, but don’t worry – we will break it all down for you! 

It’s obvious you should stay away from meat, dairy, eggs, etc., but what about things like honey? Many plant-based eaters consider honey OK to consume, but honey is not vegan by definition, which can contribute to the confusion. Likewise, many people consider themselves pescatarian, which involves eliminating everything but fish and seafood from their diet, but that is not vegan either. It’s best to remember: if it comes from an animal, it’s not vegan.

Is vegan the same as cruelty free?    

Nope! But we understand the confusion. The difference between a product being vegan and cruelty free comes down to ingredients and testing. Vegan products do not have animal-based ingredients in them, while cruelty-free products do not test on animals. If you’re looking for a vegan product, the ingredient list will be your best friend. Cruelty-free items will either have “no animal testing” or a certified cruelty-free stamp on the label.

How do I know a product is cruelty free?

Animal testing is unfortunately a commonly used practice in the cosmetics industry. For many people, finding cruelty-free makeup and cosmetics can be challenging. While there are brands moving toward being cruelty free, most large drugstore companies still test on animals. So, how do you know if a product is cruelty free? Go straight to the label. Products certified cruelty free and/or vegan are awarded a stamp to include on packaging. This stamp recognizes the company has gone through the appropriate channels to prove they are vegan/cruelty free, meaning any product with a stamp is legit.

Is there any other research I should do?

Here’s where research will come in handy. There are a few brands that are cruelty free and vegan, but are owned by large companies that test on animals and produce non-vegan products. While the product itself is vegan and cruelty free, you’ll need to consider if it’s worth giving money to a larger corporation that voluntarily test on animals. 

Additionally, when looking at foods, always read the ingredient list, as it’s important to know certain ingredients to look out for. For example, casein is a dairy protein that can be found in some dairy-free cheeses and non-dairy coffee creamer — two items that appear vegan but are not 100 percent because of casein. To familiarize yourself with some common hidden ingredients, check out our free downloadable ingredient guide so you can best prepare yourself for the grocery store.

Where do I find vegan products?

A common misconception about the vegan lifestyle is that it is difficult to follow. The truth is finding vegan and cruelty-free products is simple when you know where to look. Now that people are seeing the ethical, environmental, and health benefits of going vegan, there are plenty of new vegan products hitting the market. 

Here at The Vegan Warehouse, we help you discover them all! From vegan fashion and beauty, to home and food - we take out the guesswork out of the vegan shopping experience. To get started, check out our Starter Pack Bundles here.