A topic I've occasionally touched on here, but never discussed in depth, is animal welfare. I don't put myself in the animal-rights camp, which holds that animals have exactly the same rights as humans, but I do believe it's wrong for humans to cause needless suffering to other creatures. The rub, of course, is that word "needless." Some people, for instance, argue that any use of animals for food or research is valid if it benefits humans, because human needs trump those of "lower" animals. Others go to the opposite extreme and argue that using any animal product for food, cleaning, or any other purpose is wrong if there's any alternative whatsoever.
But there's one use of animals that I think just about everyone can agree is both unnecessary and inhumane: animal testing for cosmetics and other personal care products. It's clearly unnecessary because, first of all, cosmetics aren't life-saving medical treatments; second, it's possible to make cosmetics without using any new chemicals that need to be tested; and third, even if you do need to test new chemicals, it's possible to test them without using animals, using new methods that are often more accurate, faster, and cheaper than the old-fashioned animal tests. And anyone who claims the tests aren't inhumane clearly doesn't know the facts about how much harm these tests do, and for how little benefit.
That's why, for about 25 years now, I've been a "cruelty-free" shopper. I won't buy any personal care products that I know have been tested on animals, and I prefer whenever possible to buy from brands that I know don't use any animal testing at all. This can be challenging, though, because it isn't always easy to find cruelty-free brands in stores, or to identify them when I'm shopping online.
So in my latest Money Crashers article, I talk about the whys and hows of cruelty-free shopping. I lead off with some facts about animal testing: how it works, how effective it is (or, more often, isn't), what alternatives exist, and what the laws are about it. But if you're already opposed to animal testing and don't need convincing, you can skip all that and go straight to the last two sections, which identify companies that do and don't test on animals and offer some pointers for finding cruelty-free products in stores and online.
How to Shop for Cruelty-Free Products – Companies That Test on Animals