History of Cruelty-Free and What It Has Achieved

The history of cruelty-free goes back over 100 years. What started as a social justice movement has now evolved. Today it is an international powerhouse for protecting the rights of animals and consumers. 

You may be familiar with the Cruelty-Free International organisation. Or at least the Leaping Bunny logo. Both are the two most common and well-known animal-free testing organisations. Consumers trust them with ensuring products, and their ingredients, are free from animal testing.

In this article, we take a deeper look at the history of Cruelty-Free initiatives. How did they get started? What have they achieved? What do they do for consumers and animals? How can you help?

How did cruelty-free start?

Frances Power Cobbe, Founder of National Anti-Vivisection Society – Image from Wikipedia

Cruelty-Free International started life as a British Union in Bristol in 1898. Frances Power Cobbe started the organisation. A formidable women’s rights campaigner and philanthropist at the time.

Frances developed the organisation when she came into contact with animal suffering. During her travels across Europe, she witnessed all manner of mistreatment of animals. Traumatised by what she had seen, Frances started advocating for animal rights. She started to write articles and speak to the public about what she had seen.

In the late 19th century, the act of testing on animals became a huge social issue. Soon, anti-vivisection societies started to form in the UK. Queen Victoria herself supported this newfound movement.

In 1898, five of the anti-vivisection societies came together to form a British Union. By 1940, the organisation had over 154 branches across the world. The Union has one clear mission:

‘to keep unalterably before its members and the public the fundamental principle of their warfare with scientific cruelty, namely, that it is a great Sin – which can only be opposed effectively when opposed absolutely, and without attempts at delusive comprises of any kind.’

Following the death of Frances Power Cobbe, Dr Hadwen took over. To this day we have Animal Free Research UK (formerly Dr Hadwen Trust). The leading non-animal testing organisation in the UK. 

In 1949, the organisation’s name changed to the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. BUAV had tremendous success in uncovering animal cruelty is laboratories using investigations. 

It wasn’t until 2015 that the organisation became Cruelty-Free International. The name is now known in all corners of the world and continues with the fantastic work of its founders.

What does Cruelty-Free International do? 

Animal experimentation is still in use all over the world. Current research suggests animal-testing is less useful than modern-day alternatives. But, the scientific world is holding onto their cruel practices through fear of change.

Many scientists believe that we should continue to experiment on animals. The reason being, because it is easier to compare the results of new tests to those of old tests on the same animals. Moving away from this dispassionate and anti-progressive stance is imperative. 

Cruelty-Free International is integral to the fight against animal testing. Using their expertise, they can investigate and expose animal testing.

Campaigns are a vital part of the fight. As is challenging key decision-makers within industries that still test on animals. Corporate sponsorships help fund the hard work to continue. 

They’re also helping lead the way in alternative testing with Animal Free Research UK. The organisation is paramount to moving industries away from animal testing. 

Animal-Free Research UK has awarded grants to over 200 projects over 50 years. Those projects include animal-free testing and research on:

  • Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney, heart and liver disease

Animal Free Research UK sits on the board of several government and non-governmental bodies. They’re helping to advance animal-free research. 

Animal Free Research UK is on a mission to end all animal testing. It believes in a day where humans can cure all human diseases without the use of animals.

Why does Cruelty-Free International want to end animal testing? Isn’t it important to help humans?

Lab Mouse – Image from Wikipedia

Animal testing has helped us to research deadly diseases and create medications. But, the results are more than often underwhelming and inefficient.

Each year around the world, 200m animals get used for experimentation. Animal-testing includes thousands of disturbing individual tests that will make your toes curl.

In 2019, the UK was responsible for testing on 3.4m animals. Of those 3.4m animals tested, 32% of the animals underwent testing that caused moderate to severe harm. 

Current regulators required only 13% of those tests. That means 87% of the harmful tests were not necessary by law.

The disturbing stats above and below, further help to understand why organisations want to end animal testing:

It’s with this knowledge that we all need to recognise the need to end animal-testing and move to modern-alternatives of testing.

What impact has Cruelty-Free International made? 

Image from Cruelty-Free International

Cruelty-Free International has helped millions become aware of animal-testing. They have helped thousands of animals avoid animal testing and millions more by assisting companies to switch to animal-free testing methods.

The organisation was integral to ending animal testing for cosmetics in the European Union. Other countries from around the world have followed suit including India, and Israel. The momentum is also building in the US and China, two of the leading countries in animal-testing. 

They have helped to introduce laws that save primates from experimentation. Their work included changes to primate exporting rules, preventing labs using wild monkeys. 

The organisations campaign to end animal testing in the chemical sector has led to new legislation, REACH. REACH has helped millions of animals avoid experimentation using toxic chemicals.

Other notable achievements include:

  • Ending of cruel experimentation on Kenyan baboons at Newcastle University
  • Investigations that ended cruel botox experimentations on mice in the UK. Tremendous progress made on alternative botox testing excluding animals.
  • Awards for sustainable business and protection of animals. 

What can I do? 

Cruelty-Free International is always in need of support. If you would like to show your support, you can make a donation, volunteer your time, or start a fundraiser. The money raised helps support relentless campaigns, investigations, and pressure on large corporations. 

You can also help by ensuring that when you buy something, it has the official Leaping Bunny logo. The logo ensures your products are free from animal-testing but also supports:

  • Activism
  • Campaigning
  • Fundraisers
  • Developments in regulations and standards.
  • Cruelty-Free International.

Where does the Leaping Bunny programme fit in?

By 1996, cruelty-free shopping had become popular among groups of consumers. Shopping for cruelty-free products at this time was incredibly difficult and confusing. 

Brands and labels lacked transparency. No regulations were in place to hold any company accountable. Brands were even creating their own bunny logos without industry standards in place.

The Leaping Bunny programme cleared up confusion helping shoppers to buy in confidence. Eight animal protection groups created the initiative. Together they formed the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC).

The CCIC works with companies to ensure that their products are free from animal testing. Today, we can buy in confidence, knowing that if a product has the official Leaping Bunny logo, then it was not tested on animals. 

Veganism and ethical consumerism are on the rise. As a result, the Leaping Bunny logo is more prominent than ever before. It has become a symbol of cruelty-free shopping that consumers trust. 

Final Thoughts

The history of Cruelty-Free is full of incredible achievements. Each one has helped to save millions of innocent animals from cruel experiments. Organisations like Cruelty-Free International, Animal-Free Research UK, and the Leaping Bunny are helping to create a world without animal testing.

But, it is not just their responsibility. We must all get involved and help fight for this cause. If we all work together to fund these organisations, spread awareness, and fight against the powers that be, we can make real change and much quicker. Join the cause today.