Friday, October 2, 2015

Buyer Beware: Animals WERE Harmed In the Making of Desert Essence

A disturbing trend among "natural" companies in an increasingly competitive market is the use of "animal-friendly" labeling to describe decidedly unfriendly ingredients.

While shopping on Lucky Vitamin, I almost bought a product from Desert Essence marked as vegetarian and "cruelty-free," until I carefully read the ingredients:
Desert Essence - Exfoliating Shea Butter Body Scrub
Water (Aqua), Sodium Coco-Sulfate, Coco-Glucoside, Pumice, Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Juglans Regia (Walnut) Shell Powder, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax, Cereus Grandiflorus (Vanilla Cactus) Extract, Opuntia Vulgaris Leaf Extract (Prickly Pear Cactus), Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract (Green Tea), Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, Royal Jelly, Honey, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract*, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract*, Citric Acid, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Glycerin, Glyceryl Oleate, Glyceryl Caprylate, Hydroxypropyl Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Sodium Magnesium Silicate, Sodium Chloride, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Benzoate, Natural Fragrance (Parfum)
*Certified Organic 
Animals were harmed to obtain ingredients
Animal Testing
Artificial Fragrances/Dyes
Petroleum compounds including mineral oil, petrolatum and paraffin
Parabens, glycols or phthalates 
Recyclable, biodegradable and renewable resources
Cruelty free
This item contains at least two animal products, and yet it is falsely marketed as non-harmful to Nonhuman Animals and "Cruelty free."

I decided to investigate further. From the Desert Essence website:
Are all your products Vegan? 
While all our products are 100% vegetarian, not all are vegan. The Organics line, excluding the new Mineral Sunscreen which contains beeswax, is 100% vegan. Although several of our products have small amounts of beeswax and honey in their formulas, no animals are ever harmed to get these ingredients.
But honey and bees' wax is not cruelty-free; these products do harm animals.

What's going on here?

First, animal ingredients are cheap. Second, animal-friendly/cruelty-free labeling offers a competitive advantage, an added value for which more can be charged. Instead of switching to vegan ingredients which can be more expensive in a world where animal agriculture is heavily subsidized and animal industries are keen to push their byproducts into the marketplace, "natural" companies simply change their labeling to appease concerned customers. I documented a similar phenomenon with LUSH Cosmetics and The Body Shop. This is a tactic also used by the "meat" and dairy industries. Animal flesh and other products inherently entail exploitation and suffering to be obtained, but clever labeling can disguise the process. It can also help a company to stand out  justify a higher markup.

Post-speciesism is a profitable illusion.