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Journey toward a Cruelty-Free Philosophy

Knowingly or unknowingly, ordinary acts can also be moral decisions. This blog is about how using cosmetics became an ethical decision for me.
by khepler Jul 21, 2015
Contributors: Jameliah Inga Shorter

Knowingly or unknowingly, ordinary acts can also be moral decisions. This blog is about how using cosmetics became an ethical decision for me.

The approach of fall reminds me of my introduction to cruelty-free and fair trade beauty products. About three years ago, I realized that my overly dry skin needed help. A Georgia Peach, I was used to mild winters. Snow appeared every two or three years and didn’t stay but for a few hours. In fact, if we were lucky enough to have snow for 24 hours, my brother, sister and I would rush to make snow-angels and snow-people before it melted!
Moving to Pennsylvania for graduate school meant living in a real winter. The lighter lotions I’d been using in Georgia failed to work anymore. I needed something different, and, being the girly girl I am, I sought better products.

A friend of mine told me about cosmetics that were outstanding for winter skin from the Body Shop. She swore by the body butters. The body butters work well for me, but, most importantly, I learned about the necessity having of ethical guidelines that protect animals from cosmetic testing.

Cosmetic testing is done on animal such as rabbits, guinea pigs and mice. The purpose of the testing is to determine whether the cosmetic can be used safely on humans. These animals are subjected to high doses of the chemical(s) or cosmetics being tested, and are then killed. There are other ways to test the safety of cosmetics on human beings. EPISKIN, which is a form of human skin donated from cosmetic surgery patients, is one example. Despite these new methods of testing cosmetics that do not involve animals, animal testing is still being done.

The Body Shop sells products made with cruelty-free and fair trade ingredients. Cruelty-free means that the products are not tested on animals. Fair trade refers to the “fair market” price of raw products such as shea butter and rose oil that the company pays to its harvesters (who are often in low socio-economic countries). I had no idea that companies that use shea butter in their products financially exploit the African women who harvest it. Before buying products at the Body Shop, I never knew that putting on hand cream was or ever could be a moral decision.

Indeed, there is a need for concern when it comes to the terms “cruelty-free” and “fair trade.”  Do we need chemical testing on mammals in order to know whether it is safe for humans to use certain additives? What is considered to be a “fair” price to pay for goods? Who determines the prices? These are significant ethical questions to which answers are needed and each post in this series will help provide answers to these questions. I think that there is room in ethics scholarship to undertake these and similar questions.

For more information:
Check out Fair Trade USA for more information about the principles of fair trade.

Check out Cruelty Free International for more information about animal testing and the campaign to stop it.