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Product: Health & Beauty
Advertiser: Bia Belle Beauty
Medium: Online - Company Website
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10
The Bia Belle Beauty website featured details on their lash ranges, including mink lashes. The frequently asked questions section of their website included the following question and answer:
"Are the lashes cruelty-free? Yes, all of our lashes are made cruelty-free"
The product description of their lash ranges included the following details:
"handmade with love & care;
reusable up to 20 times;
The description for the “Lolly” lashes stated:
“3D Faux Mink Category”
It also stated that it was “Cruelty-free”
Four complaints were received regarding the advertising. The complainants objected to the claim that the mink lashes were ‘cruelty-free’ on the grounds that it was not possible that hair obtained from a mink, a wild animal, could be ‘cruelty-free’ as it was being caged. One complainant referred to the fact that the lashes were imported from China where animal cruelty laws did not compare to those in the EU.
One complainant objected to the description of the “Lolly” lashes as faux mink when the advertisers had stated in a conversation on Instagram that the “Lolly” lashes were mink.
The advertisers stated that they had opened their business in December 2017 and their first product was their strip eyelashes in both faux and real mink. They said that they researched their supplier before importing them into Ireland and they had an agent visit the supplier’s premises to ensure that everything was in order. They said that they had spoken to their supplier in regards to the cruelty-free aspect of the mink hair and had obtained a certificate from them.
The certificate concerned consisted of a typed document by the supplier stating: “Our mink fur eyelash is made of 100% mink fur. The mink has not been killed, the hair is only cut down. It’s cruelty-free. We hereby certify!”. Also included on the statement was a company stamp together with the name of the supplier and the date the statement was made.
The advertisers said that they had not advertised their lashes under false pretences or set out to mislead anyone intentionally as they felt that they had carried out the correct procedures when researching their supplier.
In response to the complaint regarding the description for their ‘Lolly’ lashes, they said that referring to them as faux mink was a genuine mistake and that when it was pointed out to them they corrected it. They said that it had been put into the mink category on their website but the description had incorrectly stated that it was faux mink and hadn’t been spotted by them. They said that as they were a new business, they had encountered a few teething problems, however, mistakes were corrected immediately.
The Executive sought an opinion from the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine who stated that the use of the term ‘cruelty-free’ was associated with the organisation Cruelty Free International and their Leaping Bunny trademark. They said that it was a term established by the animal protection movement, primarily to label products that have not been tested on animals. They said that the principle of ‘cruelty-free’ would extend to any use of animals in product development. As the product in this case was animal fur, they stated that it was incompatible with this principle and, in their opinion, the use of the term for product advertised was therefore misleading.
In regards to the certificate provided by the supplier to the advertisers, they said that this was inadequate as it had been provided by the supplier who, in the opinion of UCD, had a vested interest in marketing their products. They said that certification and quality assurance in this context required transparency and accountability, transparency in regards to the standards in which the animals were housed and managed and the method in which the fur was harvested from the living animals. They also said that the method of restraint during harvesting needed to be taken into account.
They provided the Executive with a publication on a proposed framework for private standards in animal health and welfare and said that application of this proposed framework to the certificate provided to the advertisers demonstrated that there was no evidence to certify that the products were ‘cruelty-free’.
The Executive subsequently investigated further with the advertisers and enquired if they had obtained information from their supplier on the housing and husbandry of the animals and also whether their supplier had a standard operating procedure in place as to how the fur was ‘cut down’.
In reply the advertisers provided comments from their supplier who stated that they usually have two methods on how fur was ‘cut down. The first type of method was one where a special comb was used which could cut mink hair when the hair was combed. They said that the supplier had the materials to take care of them when they wanted to get the hair. They said that the animal would be held and a technician would comb the hair with special tools to avoid hurting the animal.
They said that the second method was shedding naturally, usually in Spring and Autumn and they confirmed to the advertisers that the mink fur in their eyelashes was from natural shedding during Spring and Autumn.
The advertisers initially said that they had researched the matter and noted that there was no official certificate on the market that could be used to certify ‘cruelty-free lashes’. They said that there were many big leading eyelash brands who sold mink lashes as ‘cruelty-free’. They subsequently said that they would no longer use the term ‘cruelty free’ without appropriate certification.
(1) More, S.J.,Hanlon, A., Marchewka, J. and Boyle, L. (2017), “Private animal health and welfare standards in quality assurance programmes: a review and proposed framework for critical evaluation”, Vetinary Record.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint, the advertisers’ response and the details provided by the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine.
In relation to the description of the ‘Lolly lashes’ as ‘Faux mink’, the Committee noted that this had been an error which had been corrected.
The Committee noted the information from UCD on the term ‘Cruelty-Free’ and the third party certification operated by the organisation Cruelty Free International. They also noted the opinion from UCD was that an animal fur product was incompatible with the principle of ‘cruelty-free’ and therefore, such a product could never claim to be a ‘cruelty-free’ product.
The Committee noted the certificate provided by the advertisers had been provided by the supplier and without objective authentication such as from an independent body. Accordingly, the Committee did not consider that the certificate was sufficient substantiation for the advertisers’ claim that their products were ‘cruelty-free’. They also considered that consumers were likely to believe that the use of the term implied that some form of objective standards had been adhered to in order to use the claim. They noted the advertisers’ undertaking to discontinue the use of the term ‘cruelty free’ without appropriate certification.
The Complaints Committee considered that the advertising was in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.9 and 4.10 of the Code.