Well, Tropical Storm Irma knocked out our internet and knocked over our corn plants but we were otherwise spared any damage. Other people in our area weren’t so lucky and may not get power back for a week! I hope all of you are safe and cozy.
I’ve read some interesting thoughts on ethical consumerism in the beauty industry lately, both on other people’s blogs and in the comments section of reddit. I talk a lot about cruelty-free and vegan products here. I see that topic being discussed fairly widely (although not as widely as I would like) but you rarely hear about the human cost.
Someone rightly pointed out that many “cruelty-free brands” are made in China, a country known to have inhumane working conditions. Can you really be called cruelty-free if your products were made in a sweat shop? Now maybe these companies pay their workers better than average and make accommodations for their health and safety. Maybe they don’t. Either way, you can bet their PR department is going to make it sound like they do.
Another area of concern is the mica that appears in our eyeshadows and similar products. Unfortunately, there are cases of child labor being used to mine those minerals. This is brought up occasionally but I never hear any solutions. Some companies use synthetic mica but those aren’t widely available. There is no consumer watchdog group that I know of that tracks whether or not products contain mica mined via child labor. Again, I’m sure every single cosmetics company’s PR department would assure us in the strongest terms that they do not endorse such practices, regardless of the real truth. They themselves may even believe it but without more light being shed on the issue, its hard to be confident about the life cycle of your product.
Sometimes I will shop for cruelty-free (or just cheaper) dupes of certain brands. As I was researching one of those companies who specialize in that sort of thing, I read an interesting article contemplating the ethics of dupes. The author likened the practice to companies stealing from independent artists without credit or compensation. While I don’t think that is a totally fair comparison, I do agree that someone worked really hard on formulation, packaging, color stories, etc. and just because they work for a big company doesn’t make it ok to steal their work. In the comments section of that same article, someone pointed out that the Charlotte Tilburry gold lipstick tube that was used as an example was used by Estee Lauder first. That sort of begs the question of where does inspiration end and blatant rip offs begin?
So is there a company that is cruelty free, made under ethical conditions with ethically sourced ingredients and doesn’t steal from anybody, ever? If not, where does that leave us as consumers? Is the perfect the enemy of the good? Or, on the other hand, are human and animal rights something we should never compromise on? I have more questions than answers, unfortunately. However, I think its important to keep asking them.