Throughout history and through to today, the perfume industry has done incredible harm to the natural world upon which it relies. Many plants and animals have been driven to the brink of extinction thanks to exploitation by unscrupulous perfume-makers who care for nothing other than profit.
One of the most famous examples of this is the much-beloved Sandalwood tree. Native to India and Southeast Asia, and harvested for cultural, medicinal, and perfumery purposes, Sandalwood became almost extinct in the wild thanks to the pairing of immense consumer demand and industrial-scale oil factories. Ironically, much of this destruction was done in order to meet the demands of consumers who had an interest in natural products and who were driven by a desire to live a more 'natural' lifestyle. Producers betrayed consumer trust in this example, and I have no doubt that they would do so again. This is why it is so important to check that the products you buy use sustainably-sourced ingredients.
Nowadays, much Sandalwood is sustainably produced (much of it is grown in Western Australia), though illegal opportunistic felling continues. There are important lessons to learn from this example as producers and consumers of perfume: if we love something in nature, we need to nurture and respect it, not exploit and abuse it. We need to fully appreciate its importance to us and take active steps to ensure that we can continue to appreciate it into the future. That is why, when I source essential oils and botanicals for my perfumes, I take extra care to ensure that they will do no harm to our beautiful environment.
So why Vegan products? For the exact same reasons outlined above: if we love nature, we should not exploit or abuse it. The perfume industry through history and through to today has been, and still is, responsible for the systematic killing, maiming, and torture of animals en masse. Examples include:
Ambergris is a wax-like growth that rarely occurs in the stomachs of sperm whales - it is thought to be caused by irritation occasioned by indigestible food. The whale expels ambergris as waste. In perfumery, this ingredient is prized as a fixative. It could conceivably be sustainably-gathered in a cruelty-free way as it can be found floating in oceans and washed up on beaches in small amounts. However, greed wins the day: whales are slaughtered to find ambergris reliably and in larger amounts. Ambergris, or "floating gold," was a prize of whale-hunters in the 1800s, and poaching practices continue today. (Thankfully, however, the sale of sperm whale products is illegal in many parts of the world).
- Civet is a fatty paste secreted by the perineal glands of male and female Civet cats, native to Asia and Africa. These cats are kept in small cages in which they cannot move, in smoke-filled rooms without daylight or ventilation. They are purposefully irritated and stressed, as their secretions are greater when the cat is distressed. Extracting civet does not kill the animal, but due to the conditions to which they are subjected, there is a high mortality rate.
- Musk is derived from a scent gland of male Musk Deer, native to Southern Asia. Today, many Musk Deer subspecies are listed as vulnerable or endangered, and their populations continue to plummet thanks to illegal hunting. It is possible to harvest the scent gland from a Musk Deer without killing the animal, however hunters rarely go to this effort, and I believe the maiming of animals is equally unconscionable. Musk in perfumery is produced by extracting the scent gland from the animal, drying it, chopping it into pieces and maturing it in alcohol for years.
I could go on, as there are countless other animals that are routinely exploited by the perfume industry (and this is before I turn my attentions to animal testing practices). Dragon Grove Fragrances is Vegan, and strictly cruelty-free, because I believe that the torture, maiming and killing of animals for the sake of mere human ornamentation (or any reason at all!) is despicable and arrogant. If we love nature, and we want a 'natural lifestyle,' then we should be prepared to be respectful of it, and to stop putting human desire first.
As musician and one of my personal heroes Einar Selvik has said: "It would be beneficial if we all had a more animistic view of the world. [...] Nature is something sacred, something we are a part of and not the rulers of. That doesn't have to be a spiritual or religious thing; it's an attitude. The second we took that sacredness out of nature and put it up in the sky or completely disregarded it, that's when we got into trouble. I think it would benefit us all if we all had a more respectful view of nature as something we are the caretakers of in a way. It's something we should respect, something sacred."
- Tyler Bartlett