Veg Shopper's Guide

Animals are tortured, and slaughtered brutally, for various products including meat, clothing and accessories. The so-called "by-products" of their slaughter, often worth more than the meat, are used for innumerable cosmetic and household articles.

Animals are also tortured ruthlessly, and finally killed, for experiments and research. Animals do not volunteer for such agony, torture or death.

Few people are aware of such cruelties. But, not all products are made by torturing and killing animals. From Day One, BWC put in continuous efforts to contact such companies whose products are not made by killing or torturing animals.

BWC’s Veg Shopper’s Guide consisted of products — cosmetics, toilet preparations and even packaged foods — which were believed, in good faith, to be free of animal ingredients and animal testing. We had hoped the guide would make it easy for our members and consumers to adopt a vegetarian life style.

However, BWC is sorry to say we had no option but to withdraw the Veg Shopper's Guide. We do not wish to endorse products that we are no longer sure of being vegetarian, leave alone vegan.

Moreover, there was no point in BWC approaching food manufacturers to fill questionnaires up, because in 2001 the Government of India made it mandatory for all packaged foods to carry the veg/non-veg symbol. Some years later these labels began being affixed by manufacturers on all beverages like carbonated waters. Then in 2014, BWC’s persistent efforts bore fruit, when the new Prime Minister, in response to our request, extended the veg/non-veg labelling law to cover cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and toiletries.

However, it was challenged in the Bombay High Court by the Indian Beauty and Hygiene Association. Later in May 2018, the Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) approved the proposal but the Notification was stalled by the Ministry of Law whose approval was not forthcoming. Then in 2021, DTAB did a complete U-turn and rejected it ridiculously stating: “There is no clarity and system to certify vegetarian and non-vegetarian ingredients in the country. Hence, the Board did not agree for mandating the indication of green or red/brown dot on every package of cosmetics, as it may complicate the regulation and add regulatory burden on stakeholders.” Firstly, there is clarity in definitions of veg and non-veg for food articles and the same would apply for other items; secondly, it adds regulatory burden on manufacturers to declare is an absolutely unacceptable, unfair and unethical reason as far as consumers are concerned.

Earlier BWC has stopped approaching cosmetic companies because it turned out to be frustrating. The majority did not co-operate in providing the necessary, accurate information regarding ingredients and testing on animals. For example, a couple of VLCC outlets told us over the telephone that their products were tested on animals, whereas they had stated to BWC, in writing, that they did not do so. Despite three e-mails sent, they did not reply in writing.

BWC now leaves it to consumers to decide whether to eat/use products marked with the green symbol (square with dot) which is self-regulatory on the part of the manufacturer.

Those who correspond with manufacturers directly are advised to read between the lines of replies which
may be evasive or ambiguous.

Caution needs to be taken with regard to items labelled as follows:
Animal-Friendly: ambiguous wording.

Biodegradable: ambiguous wording.

Care for Nature: ambiguous wording.

Chemical-Free: no lab produced substances utilised, but ingredients utilised can be of animal origin. Similar to Organic.

Cruelty-Free: may be oblivious to the fact that killing is cruel. (Beware of ‘Cruelty-Free’ pledges.)
Earth & Plant Based: earth can cover animal derived substances.

Natural: indicates not synthetic or lab-produced, but can be of animal origin.

No Animal Fat: can contain other animal substances.

Organic: can contain plant and animal substances. Similar to Chemical-Free.

Organically Pure/Certified Organic: can contain organic plant and animal substances.
Pure/Genuine: unadulterated ingredients which can be of animal, mineral or plant origin.
Eco-Friendly and Environmentally-Friendly: users of slaughterhouse "by-products" present themselves as such for the waste prevented — for a profit.
Green: can contain plant and animal substances. Could have been manufactured using a process that saves energy and lessens carbon emission.

Herbal: indicates the presence of herbs, but not the absence of animal-origin or chemical ingredients. It is a misconception that herbal products are always free of animal ingredients and therefore harmless.

Recycled/Recyclable: (refers to packaging, not contents) may or may not have been recycled and can contain plant and animal substances.

Vegan: containing no animal derived substances.

Vegetarian: containing no flesh, fat, etc but could contain derivatives of milk, honey, shellac and maybe egg.

None of the above specifically addresses the issue of testing on animals.

Against Animal Testing/No Animal Testing: policy statements that do not confirm the product has not been tested on animals.

Dermatologist Tested/Allergy Tested/Clinically Proven: ambiguous wording.

Safe: likely to have been tested on animals.

Marks such as Agmark (indicates agricultural produce), FPO (Fruit Products Order), GI (Geographical Indication), Ecomark (conforms to a set of standards aimed at the least impact on the ecosystem) and other certifications by BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards), ISI (Indian Standards Institution), and ISO (International Standards Organisation) have very specialised, esoteric meanings dealing in semantics. Whereas, declarations such as Grade 1, % of TFM, FDA approved, Permitted Colours used, Preservative Free and Premium product, indicate quality. None of them concern themselves with animals or animal ingredients, so could very well have been utilised. No different to the IMA’s (Indian Medical Association) unethical endorsements on soaps and other products like those manufactured by Dabur and Pepsi, exposed by actor Aamir Khan on one of his TV shows in 2012.

False Magical Claims

More often than not, cosmetic companies resort to false advertising. Consumers don’t even realise their marketing claims are illegal. For example any product that states it can treat or heal an ailment (usually skin or obesity related) is breaking the law because cosmetics are not medicinal products.

Many marketing strategies either state that a particular wonderful ingredient in included, or that a dangerous ingredient is not present. This means nothing because there is no indication whatsoever regarding what the products actually contain because ingredients are not always listed.

Endorsed Products may not be Veg

Although marked with the mandatory veg symbol, BWC can not 100% vouch for products being free of animal ingredients and not having been tested on animals because they are self-certified, and even if endorsed as veg or vegan by organisations working for animals in India or abroad. BWC therefore urges each and every consumer to decide for herself/himself whether she or he wants to believe the veg declaration affixed on the package by the manufacturer, whether to trust the endorser (NGO or shop selling/promoting veg items) and if to purchase/use the product.

Moreover, BWC India has no connection whatsoever with the BWC cosmetic company. When the BWC charity in UK closed, the company owned by them was sold. Despite a continuous correspondence spanning a couple of years, BWC India was not at all satisfied that all the ingredients used by BWC Cosmetics were free of animal substances.