Dear Peta: Dove Isn’t Cruelty Free!

Dear Peta: Dove Isn’t Cruelty Free!

I know that Dove isn’t a cruelty free brand. Ever since I first went cruelty-free and vegan with my whole makeup and beauty collection three years ago, this has remained a known fact in my mind. Not only do Dove distribute their products in China, they’re also owned by Unilever, a company that Joe and I religiously avoid (for various reasons, including their animal testing policies, misuse of palm oil and human rights scandals).

When I first saw that Peta listed ‘Dove (Unilever)’ as cruelty-free, I honestly thought there’d been some sort of mistake. Didn’t they know? Or had Joe and I been avoiding Unilever all this time for no reason? (The short answer: no, no we hadn’t.)

What a Real Cruelty-Free Company Looks Like:

In the cruelty-free and vegan beauty community, we don’t consider a brand ‘cruelty-free’ if they sell their products in Mainland China due to their pre- AND post-market animal testing laws. 

(Here’s a great post by the Alternative Curator that explains what that actually means.)

Genuine cruelty-free companies don’t sell their products in China in order to ensure that none of their products are tested on animals (aka, they don’t sell out for the cash).

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What Dove have done instead:

To get around China’s pre-market testing laws, Dove have supposedly only put on offer products that don’t need to be tested on animals:

“We have changed which products we offer to Chinese consumers. The Chinese Authorities changed regulations in 2014 & now allow for certain cosmetics products that are manufactured in China to not require animal testing, & those are the products that we will be offering.”

I can’t find a statement anywhere on what these products might be, and Chinese regulations are deliberately vague. Either way, I suppose it’s positive that Dove are at least trying to avoid pre-market testing.

Post-market testing is where the water gets really murky for Dove:

“Post-market testing would only be required in the rare occurrence of a serious consumer safety concern. We have requested to the Chinese Authorities that they notify us if there were such a concern, so we can withdraw the product rather than it be subject to animal testing.”

This is factually incorrect; in reality, post-market testing is not rare and there doesn’t need to be a safety concern for a product to be tested. They can test whatever they like, whenever they like, from their shelves. (Their shelves specifically; products shipped to China from an online store are not affected.)

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Dove class themselves as cruelty-free because they politely asked the Chinese government to notify them if any of their products require post-marketing testing.


I’m pretty sure that doesn’t mean that the Chinese government WILL alert Dove when post-market testing is required, or that Dove will have the chance to remove their product before it’s tested.

It just means they’ve asked.

Which they probably have.

That doesn’t mean a lot.

The bottom line here is that if Dove, or indeed Unilever, really cared about avoiding animal testing, they’d join the other 1,000+ brands that have adopted a true cruelty-free policy, like the one set out by Cruelty Free International. 

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