Vegan Wonder

Decoding Vegan Certifications: A Guide to Choosing Cruelty-Free Products

Have you ever stood in the grocery aisle staring at a package of vegan cheese, wondering, “Is this really vegan?

If you have, you’re not alone. As plant-based eating continues to grow in popularity, so does the demand for vegan-certified products. But with a variety of vegan certification logos on the market, it can be challenging to know what they mean and whether they’re legit.

What is a Vegan Certification?

A vegan certification is a mark given to products that have been independently verified as containing no animal products or byproducts in their ingredients or manufacturing process. These logos help consumers easily identify vegan items, making it simpler to shop for cruelty-free options.

In an ideal world, all companies would be honest about the absence of animal products in their goods. But unfortunately, not all are. Vegan certifications provide an extra layer of trust and transparency for consumers.

Common Vegan Certification Logos

Below are some of the most common vegan certification logos you might come across. Familiarizing yourself with these logos will help you quickly identify vegan products on the shelf.

  • The Vegan Society logo is one of the most well-known vegan certifications. Founded in the UK in 1944, The Vegan Society is the oldest vegan organization in the world. Its trademark (pictured above) is recognized globally and appears on thousands of products.
  • Certified Vegan is a vegan certification program run by The Vegan Society in North America. While not all Vegan Society-certified products carry the society’s logo, they do carry the “Certified Vegan” seal.
  • Non-GMO Project Verified is not specifically a vegan certification, but most products with this logo are vegan. The Non-GMO Project is North America’s most recognized independent standard for products made according to rigorous best practices for avoiding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Since animals are often used in the production of GMO crops, the Non-GMO Project verification process also includes animal welfare considerations, making the logo a useful guide for vegans.
  • PETA-Approved Vegan is a logo you’ll find on cosmetics, personal care products, and sometimes food items. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is one of the most prominent animal rights organizations in the world. While its certification program may not be as stringent as some other vegan certifications, PETA’s logo can still help you quickly identify vegan products, especially in the beauty industry.
  • Leaping Bunny is another well-known logo for cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics and personal care products. The Leaping Bunny Program is run by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), a group made up of animal protection organizations. The Leaping Bunny logo means a product has not been tested on animals and that its ingredients have also been screened for animal testing.

How Do Products Get Vegan Certified?

To earn a vegan certification, a product must meet specific requirements related to its ingredients and manufacturing process. Most vegan certification organizations conduct audits of companies to ensure they are living up to these standards.

When a company applies for a vegan certification, they must submit a detailed list of all the ingredients in their product, along with information about where those ingredients are sourced. The certification organization will review this information to ensure none of the ingredients are derived from animals.

Ingredients that are commonly derived from animals include but are not limited to:

  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, butter, whey, casein, lactose, etc.)
  • Eggs and egg products
  • Honey
  • Gelatin ( derived from animal bones, skin, or connective tissue)
  • Lanolin ( derived from sheep’s wool)
  • Collagen ( derived from animal skin, bones, or connective tissue)
  • Enzymes derived from animals (like rennet, which is used in cheese-making)
  • Nutmeg ( in large quantities, sometimes used as a substitute for musk, an animal-derived scent)

The certification organization will also check that the product does not contain any ingredients that are derived from animals, even in trace amounts. This is important to prevent cross-contamination with non-vegan products.

Once a product’s ingredient list has been approved, the company must also demonstrate that their manufacturing processes are free from animal exploitation. This includes ensuring that any machinery or equipment used in production does not involve animal parts or testing.

After the initial application and review process, most vegan certification organizations require annual or biannual audits to ensure the company continues to meet their standards. If a company stops meeting the requirements, their certification can be revoked.

How Do I Know If a Product Is Really Vegan?

While most companies are honest about their vegan certifications, some may make false claims. To ensure a product is genuinely vegan, you can take the following steps:

  1. Look for the vegan certification logo on the packaging. While this is not a foolproof method (some companies may use fake logos), it is a good starting point. Be familiar with the different vegan certification logos so you can quickly spot them.
  2. Read the ingredient list. If you’re unsure whether an ingredient is vegan or not, you can look up the ingredient on the certification organization’s website. If the product doesn’t have a vegan certification, you may need to contact the company directly to ask about the origin of their ingredients.
  3. Check the certification organization’s website. If you’re uncertain about a product’s vegan status but it bears a specific vegan certification logo, you can visit the certification organization’s website to see a list of certified products or companies. Keep in mind that some certification organizations may not publicly list all the products or companies they certify, so this method is not always foolproof.

If you’re still unsure about a product’s vegan status, you can contact the manufacturer directly. Most companies are happy to answer questions about their products, including their vegan status.

Do Vegan Certifications Apply to Non-Food Items?

Yes, vegan certifications can also be applied to non-food items like cosmetics, personal care products, household cleaners, and textiles (like clothing and shoes).

For example, the PETA-Approved Vegan logo is used on cosmetics and personal care products, while the Vegan Society’s certification includes non-food items like textiles and household cleaners. The Leaping Bunny logo specifically covers cosmetics and personal care products but also verifies that the ingredients have been screened for animal testing.

When shopping for non-food items, look for the same vegan certification logos you’d find on food products. This will help you quickly identify items that have been independently verified as vegan.

How Do I Choose the Right Vegan Certification?

Different vegan certification programs may have slightly different standards, so it can be helpful to know what each program entails when deciding which one to look for.

For example, The Vegan Society’s standard is considered one of the most stringent vegan certification programs. It prohibits any products or ingredients that have been tested on animals (in addition to the animal-derived ingredients already mentioned). The Certified Vegan program also has a strong reputation and is recognized globally.

Other vegan certification programs, like PETA’s, may not be as stringent in their requirements. However, they can still be a useful guide for shoppers, especially in industries like cosmetics where animal testing is still common. If you see the PETA-Approved Vegan logo on a product, you can be sure it does not contain animal-derived ingredients and that the company has made a commitment to animal welfare.

When choosing a vegan certification program, consider the following:

  • How closely the product or ingredient screening aligns with your personal values and preferences
  • Whether the program covers the specific product category you’re shopping for