Is Burt’s Bees Really Cruelty-Free?

Gift box of Burt's Bees products

On my quest to lead a sustainable and cruelty-free lifestyle, I’ve been a bit of a Burt’s Bees* convert. So it was a surprise to hear fellow green bloggers complaining about Burt’s Bees and its non-compliance with cruelty-free standards recently. Looking at the numerous bottles and pots of lovely creams and balms, I felt quite upset – I can’t stand the idea of supporting animal testing.

On top of that, most of my collection given to me as a Christmas present, specifically chosen to suit my new-found sustainable lifestyle. And, they’re not cheap either!

However, through my scrunched-up-angry-face, I decided to take a closer look. Upon closer inspection I found that all of my products display the Leaping Bunny symbol, indicating their cruelty-free status. So, what’s the deal?

The Truth About Burt’s Bees

It appears the main point of contention against Burt’s Bees is its parent company. In 2007, Burt’s Bees was acquired by Clorox, a company which freely admits that it tests on animals. However, Burt’s Bees, as a subsidiary, has continued its cruelty-free approach, declaring that their products and even their ingredients are not tested on animals – something that isn’t assured by all cruelty-free brands. I believe this is where the crux of the matter lies.

My question is this – how far should we look into the production chain in order to gauge cruelty-free status?

The Leaping Bunny defines what it considers cruelty-free status as, “no animal testing [is] conducted or commissioned for finished products or ingredients in any phase of product development by the company, its laboratories or its suppliers”. Essentially, the Leaping Bunny represents the complete absence of animal testing any product’s chain of production, including third-party suppliers.

This means that, while Clorox does test on animals in its other subsidiaries, it remains completely cruelty-free in its Burt’s Bees operations and product line.

However, this is where things become divisive. Depending on your personal stance, you may still wish to not use Burt’s Bees products simply because the profits generated by the company will be repatriated to other business areas that do test on animals. Or, you will draw a line here and continue to support the company anyway.

Personally, I’ve come to the decision that I’m ok to purchase Burt’s Bees products in general, but will be looking for better alternatives in the future. Either way, it seems somewhat naïve to me to condemn an entire company that still maintains its ethics when its parent company does not hold the same view. In that respect, you could easily condemn me for being a vegetarian when the rest of my family is not!

What I’m trying to say is, I will continue trust cruelty-free certified practices no matter who owns who, because I will still be creating more demand for these products. And my hope is that by creating more demand for these better practices, companies like Clorox would convert to being a wholly cruelty-free organisation to increase their market share.

Is Burt’s Bees Vegan?

To round off this review, I wanted to add a note about vegan beauty. There is a big difference between cruelty-free and vegan beauty – and in this case, Burt’s Bees is a good demonstration of this.

Vegan beauty products ensure that there are no animal products in any formulation. Cruelty-free beauty products ensure that there is no animal testing in the creation of any product.

The main point to note is that cruelty-free products can still include ingredients from animal origins. They’re not necessarily vegan. And while Burt’s Bees is obviously using some bee byproducts (such as honey, and beeswax, neither of which I have issue with), they also use other products like cow’s milk, and carmine, which is made from crushing thousands of bugs to create a nice red colour.

In this sense, Burt’s Bees is definitely not vegan. It also uses ingredients that I oppose, so I’ll be avoiding those products from now on too.

Depending on your personal preferences, it may therefore be wise to only choose green, natural and cruelty-free beauty products from sites such as Content Beauty* or Sephora UK*. If you’re vegan, FeelUnique has a great specialist vegan beauty section* so you can shop without worry too.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links (denoted '*')



  1. Alec
    December 7, 2020 / 7:45 am


    To me this article reads as justification of something you see clear issues with. you say that “In that respect, you could easily condemn me for being a vegetarian when the rest of my family is not!”
    That is not an equal comparison. You do not have a choice in your affiliation with your lineage. Burts Bees does. By purchasing Burts Bees you are financially supporting the research that utilizes animal testing as method. Clorox has many unethical implications and by purchasing products they own, your money goes towards the cruel testing and conditions under which animals are held.

    Second, you claim that Burts Bees admits to using animal products in their product. are you implying that killing thousands of insects for a cool color in your product is not cruel? Is that really where you draw the line? Also, if they use milk, do you really think that the cows used undergo a truly ethical process? I am skeptical.

    Like i said, you bring up all these points that clearly show how unethical this product is and then attempt(lacklusterly) to justify them.

    • besma
      December 7, 2020 / 2:13 pm

      Hi Alec,

      Thanks for your engaging albeit aggressive comment. I think it’s naive to think that Burt’s Bees is only creating its products for the good of the land and people (even if that’s what the original Burt would have wanted), and I do think there’s a conflict of interest in Clorox owning the brand. However, as I note here, it’s not a deal breaker for me: most businesses don’t see their ethics as equally important as their earning potential. I do think that needs to be changed, but it’s an issue with consumerism and capitalism, not just Burt’s Bees/Clorox. If you see it as a barrier to purchasing Burt’s Bees, then don’t.

      Similarly, I say here I have issue with beauty products that contain carmine and milk. I don’t buy products that contain either of these, and it’s a personal choice I’ve stuck to for the last five years. You’re welcome to be skeptical of Burt’s Bees, but I’m clear in my write-up here that I’m not ok with either of these ingredients.

      So, my advice is to simply take what you will from this, and make a decision yourself. Similarly, be kind in your approach to animals, people, and planet. There isn’t a perfect way to live, or buy beauty, but there is always the option to be kind.

      B x

      • valerie
        January 10, 2021 / 9:18 pm

        You are aware that red colours come from cochineal insect wings, correct? That is animal cruelty, despite what you may thinks qualifies as an animal. It is a life. You can clearly see this on some of their product ingredient lists.

        Furthr, Burt’s Bes products contain Lanolin. If you research, you would know that Lanolin is called wool yolk, wool wax, or wool grease, is a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool -bearing animals. Lanolin used by humans comes from domestic sheep breeds that are raised specifically for their wool.
        This is definitely NOT vegan, nor cruelty-free.

        Clorox, who owns Burt’s Bees AND Monsanto, is under the umbralla of the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association. Monsanto is one of the Worst companies in the world. DDT was the core of their company, which kills plants, animals and humans. It is banned in many places.
        I am a agriculture/horticulture certified technician. I have worked with Monsanto. This is all common knowledge in the industry.

        • besma
          January 11, 2021 / 10:49 am

          Hi Valerie, I’m not sure if you read the post but I clearly stated that I oppose carmine (the product from cochineal beetles) and that they’re not vegan.

          I also agree that Monsanto is a problematic and evil company.

          B x

  2. Maddy
    May 3, 2020 / 12:42 am

    Is there products made with animal bones like gelation??

    • besma
      May 4, 2020 / 12:29 pm

      Hi Maddy, no I don’t believe they are made with animal bones or gelatine, but they do use products made by bees (such as honey, beeswax, pollen, propolis). I’d recommend checking each product’s ingredients first before buying.

      B x

  3. Mary
    February 11, 2020 / 6:20 pm

    I’m so sorry to here your products are not cruelty free and vegan! I have had some problems with your products for about 6 months now and I am glad I realized your not supportive of animals.

    • Marian
      March 1, 2020 / 9:02 am

      Did we read the same article?

      • Ron
        December 18, 2020 / 3:50 am

        This made me laugh. Lol.

    • valerie
      January 10, 2021 / 9:20 pm

      You are correct. Lanolin and cochineal insects are used in Burt’s Bees products. Burt’s Bees is also under the same umbrella as Monsanto, because it is owned by Clorox and they are both under the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association which freely states they regularly animal testing.

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