Consumers are being misled by certain beauty products labelled as “cruelty-free,” according to a new US study.

Researchers at the University of Missouri and University of Oregon revealed their findings at the recent American Academy of Advertising 2012 Annual

Conference, arguing manufacturers should be required to abide by a legal use of the label.

“Because there is no legal standard for what is and isn’t cruelty-free, consumers are vulnerable to deceptive advertising,” explained Joonghwa Lee, a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

“A company may claim their product is cruelty-free, but there still may be some animal testing done somewhere along the manufacturing process. This could lead to consumers being tricked into buying products that they do not support.”

Beauty items that can be labelled cruelty-free range from daily essentials such as deodorants and shampoo to skincare, cosmetics and perfume.

In an online survey as part of the study, consumers indicated they would be more likely to buy cruelty-free labelled products, although once they knew more about the ambiguous nature of cruelty-free labels their opinions changed.

“(However), once the participants learned the wide range of definitions that exist for cruelty-free products, they found using the cruelty-free designation to be less socially responsible and less safe than they did before learning that information,” added Kim Sheehan, a professor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.

Labels such as “not tested on animals” or “against animal testing” can cause confusion since although a final product may not have been tested on animals, the ingredients could have been.

The Leaping Bunny , international label for cruelty-free productsCurrently, the easiest way for consumers across the globe to decipher cruelty-free products is via the international Leaping Bunny logo (pictured left)– products featuring this mark are certified cruelty-free under the internationally recognized

Humane Cosmetics or Humane Household Products Standards. These specify that no animal testing is conducted or commissioned for finished products or ingredients in any stage of development by the firm, its laboratories or suppliers after a fixed cut-off date. To search for brands that carry the logo visit: –AFP RELAXNEWS