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 '*')


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