(M)SDS – (Material) Safety Data Sheets , and how to read them

This post is about the whole animal testing  shebang concerning companies. I just finished writing a rather lengthy reply to a reader about the nuances used in describing the testing methods in Material Safety Data sheets (MSDS), and I came to the conclusion it was now a perfect timing to mention this here as well.

In the past I had to dance around with companies, sometimes correspondence turned from days into weeks, into months and finally into way over a year, to reach the end and get the information, that they don’t know whether the raw material supplier tested on animals or not. So, even though a company can state that it is cruelty-free, they don’t test themselves (which probably all can state, because it is more a commissioning kind of thing), and they do not commission third parties, the raw material supplier might have been left out of the equation. In my enquiries, I do refer to my information sheet that all companies get sent for the topics concerning cruelty-free and free of animal derivatives.

Cruelty-free, you can split three ways:

      • the company does not test on animals
      • the company does not commission other parties to test on animals, nor does it use such gained information for the materials used
      • the raw – material supplier does not test on animals nor commissions it (for the materials used by the certain company;  a raw material supplier not testing on animals at all/ commissioning it, would probably be a jaw dropping incident)

the use of animal derivatives (ingredients)  is a two parter :

      • the product does not contain animal derivatives
      • no animal derivatives are used in the manufacturing process/ production

Although a product can be free of animal derivatives, this does not conclude the path to its existence being free of it. Pigments for example, can be dispersed with animal fats or oils in the manufacturing process.

I would also like to mention, that if companies use the term the “finished” product or “end-”  product was not tested on animals / is cruelty-free, alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear.   Also the term the ” products are cruelty-free” does not ever read as the company is free of animal testing. These are two different statements . It may very well be that a company can state in such way and is cruelty-free (see above) and doesn’t know about the intonation their wording has; how it is read by the consumer; or maybe the company doesn’t care about it. It is always up to the consumer and the way the consumer reads and interprets the information.

This concludes a very long preface, to finally come to the topic of Material Safety Data sheets, hereon after mentioned as MSDS.

Not all companies offer their MSDS online for public access, but they are very helpful to the consumer, to find out whether,  1, a product contains animal derivatives e.g. Bone Black PBk9,  2, how its raw- material were tested.

Under the subject toxicology it gets quite interesting.

  • e.g. “similar” chemicals / material have/ has been tested on e.g. rats, rabbits …  this does not conclude to the actual used chemical/ material being tested on animals
  • the chemical/ material shows … in tests… – naming animals such as, rats (often used to swallow material), rabbits (often material used on skin and in eyes), guinea pigs ; and mentioning effects upon breathing material in;
  • it states under toxicity “ocular” and “cutaneous” irritation, which also means animal testing, because who would offer themselves up to get chemicals poured into eyes, on skin or open wounds? – no one
  • mentioning of a certain US university as having been commissioned to do the material testing, is also a very inconclusive information, as the university does test on animals, so no certainty here;

In case you stumble over the ol’ “Ames Test” under toxicology in the MSDS: the Ames test does not use living animals, but is a bacterial test; as gathering from “not living” also outlines, it uses animal matter, rat liver extract.

The importance of the date on the MSDS: here you can get a rough, but not completely certain idea about when the information was gathered / the testing done. Chemicals / raw material were tested on animals in the past, yes, several decades ago, when it was necessary by law; when a MSDS sheet states the date of e.g. 2018 and mentions animal tests , this does not mean it was accessed old information (decades ago) it can be very fresh – three year old information, meaning the mentioned animals being tested on three years ago;

This leads to how important it also is to get the information from the companies directly, and why I write to them, because MSDS don’t give you all the information needed. So if the MSDS reads inconclusive concerning animal testing/ cruelty, if a company states no animal testing concerning the raw material suppliers gives you a better, hopefully clearer overview.

I mentioned before that I  – until recently- reached out several times to companies to get more information  concerning this precarious topic. I decided to no longer pursue a company, if they chose to purposely omit the cruelty-free topic, though enquired about and information sheet submitted that explains all the topics as well as gives examples of animal derivatives. What you find from this February (2021) on under the listing of a company here, is for example “cruelty-free status: undisclosed”, which means, a company did not give me the information. I give you a summary of what a company relied to me and a list of products free of animal derivatives, or vegetarian-friendly, if they offer such products. I will also mention, whether the information adhers to the product or manufacturing cycle as well, if I receive as much information.

It overall relies on you, the reader and consumer, to  make your decision. Everyone chooses for themselves. Is it enough, that an end-product doesn’t contain animal derivatives or vegetarian-friendly ones, does the cruelty-free part play a role in your decision?  There are a many people with different opinions and views on why and what they choose. Not all vegans e.g. are vegans because of the treatment of animals but for health reasons or ethical reasons concerning humanity (for the resources and money spent on raising “food” animals, more humans could be helped and saved from starvation). There are vegans, for whom the definition concerns alimentation only. There are omnivores, who’d rather not have animal suffering attached to products they use. Again, everyone makes their own decisions.

What I gathered from my correspondence with companies over the last four years is, that raw material suppliers are very potent institutions, or big bad wolves, if you like. Companies that use MSDS provided by their raw material suppliers are afraid or rather not ask about animal testing in order not to make the raw material suppliers cross and suffer repercussions, such as being dropped as customer – I guess. This also does not only concern small companies but also big ones. Apparently they hold such power over  companies, in a way their consumers, that those buckle underneath. The (rhetorical) question is, whether raw material suppliers should hold such power. To be clear, there are enough alternatives and already so much data collected from decades past, that there is no need for further animal testing.

I would also like to point out that it receiving information concerning the raw material supplier from a company brings certainty , in contrary to companies talking around the topic or leaving it out altogether. So even if you find the information of a company listed upsetting  – it means the company didn’t hide it; a company going out of its way to not talk about the topic, not mentioning it at all or philibustering their head off, those purposely draw a curtain over your eyes. Only talking about positive things, their products and not questioned topic, does not render them in a better light than the companies, that spoke the truth. As a consumer, you should be  wary about getting the wool pulled over your eyes.

Additional note, not concerning “animal” – but human cruelty: the topic Mica;  if companies use mica and do not disclose, whether it is natural or synthetical and where its origins are, its origins can be very questionable and ethically tainted  with child labour. If a company for example takes great lengths, describing e.g. all the locations of quarries and countries, where the pigments are sourced from, doing this for all the pigments they use, but purposely leave out the origin of mica used (even not mentioned on MSDS sheets), the origin might be ethically very questionable.  Another method of non-disclosure is to say a product is “made in .. ” giving it a tone of pride but also veils the mica heritage in opaque veils, especially if said products main ingredients is mica.

Please inform yourself about the mining of mica . It is not only found in art supplies but also e.g. in cosmetics and make-up . You might want to have a look at Refinery 29’s video on youtube.

Here is once more my information sheet – about the topics of animal testing and animal derivatives – at your disposal:

the English version and the German version



source: mail contact / company correspondence, company websites,






2021: updated cruelty-free and vegan-friendly guidelines PDF

Here is my 2021 updated information sheet with guidelines for a cruelty-free company and vegan-friendly and vegetarian-friendly products, which I send out to companies.

At your disposal:

English Version (PDF)

German Version (PDF)

I have resumed sending out enquiries to update and broaden my compendium.

All the best,



dizzy+ new inquiries sent out

Dramatized reenactment of how I feel right now by Teddy Boo (he was happily dreaming here)

Very dizzy and a bit disheartened is how I feel right now. The dizziness  does not come from writing inquiries , though.      

It is bothersome and disheartening, if companies do not read past the first paragraph of my mail. I did often encounter this in the last weeks . So I changed the layout and thought it would be easier to read through. The definition of vegan-friendly art supplies and a cruelty-free company  (two different things), which you can find in my last entry ,(https://www.veganartstuff.info/2018/02/21/definition-update-whats-cruelty-free-vegan-friendly/) I put at the bottom of my letter and attach more often  the PDF as well.    Unfortunately, many do not read past the small first paragraph, to find the option out in the second paragraph. I give a sentence to copy and paste, if they are not interested in this whole vegan/cruelty-free issue, they don’t even have to write the reply out, just: copy, reply, paste, send (4 mouse clicks; takes not more than 5secs). I also thought it would be better for me to ask about specific products and not the whole range they offer. I go through all the products, read the Safety sheets, read the company’s FAQs and then I contact them. So when I ask about certain items, to get the reply to just read the safety sheets, which I already did and which do not say anything about what kind of e.g. colour pigments are used (PBk9- bone black ), nor the production itself (for example dispersion of pigments with animal fats and oil).  On top of my definition stating examples of animal derivatives such as Bone Black, I wrote this next to the product I inquired about: Acrylics (it can contain PBk9), only for the person handling my inquiry to explain to me what bone black was. Also naming other products I did not inquire about because I read the data sheets: that their beeswax pellets contain beeswax. What companies often also do not think about is the manufacturing process or the supply chain. In the production process animal derivatives can be used and a supplier can test the (raw)material on animals or commission it. I think I was allowed to rant about this, if you put so much time and effort into this. And I always double-check, so I went through the data sheets twice. And when they respond, which is first of all fantastic, because a lot of companies don’t even bother with that, I have to explain what means what, basically all of the attached definition again. And my intention with the definition was for them also to safe time and to get all information needed, but you can’t help them, if they don’t (want to) read your explanation.

I have started my way through the ACMI (art and creative materials insitute) members list; send some companies I had correspondence last year  my information sheet (not mentioned in the list below) and I wrote to other companies I discovered or you wrote to me about. Holbein US also contacted me, I think I mentioned it in my last inquiry update. So here are some results and companies I wrote to:

  • Holbein US: they were suprised about animal fats/ oil being used for dispersing pigments; they were not informed about this before by the Holbein Japan and in March they will talk about this issue on their trip to Japan; also neither the Japanese customer service last year nor Holbein US this year gave me information about their cruelty-free status. This does mean necessarily they aren’t. It is just unknown and hopefully will swing our way.
  • Gamblin Feb 8th, 2018: they potentially have vegan-friendly products but they have no information about the supplier chain and the supplies being cruelty-free. And the material testing (->their SDS Safety Data Sheets)  is done by the suppliers. It will take some time to go through all the suppliers, but they thankfully started to inquiry about this matter.
  • Prima Marketing February 5th,2018: written to two given adresses – no reply yet (thank you for mention it to me, also thought about  contacting them previously but scrapped the started letter)
  • Nevsakya Palitra Feb 5th, 2018: written to two given adresses, no reply yet (thanky for telling me about this company)
  • Tritart– Feb 5th, 2018: had correspondence, told me all their products (except their animal hair brushes) are vegan-friendly but did not answer about the cruelty-free status; did not reply to my last mail about this. To be fair, it was apperent they did not really read my message properly, just “is … vegan-friendly” and not further, so their company status just remains unkown for now.
  • Shuttle Art– Feb 6th, 2018: filled out the online form twice, also tried another mentioned adress, did not work
  • Castle Art Supplies Feb 5th, 2018: no reply yet
  • Maimeri Feb 5th, 2018: no reply (thanks for telling me about this one)
  • Ohuhu Feb 5th, 2018: Trojan Virus infected website-can’t go on the website (tried it twice)
  • Vallejo Feb 8th, 2018: no reply yet
  • Pébéo Feb 25th, 2018 (wrote partly in French; as if writing in a company’s location’s native language would make a positive effect on giving a reply)
  • Maimeri Feb 25th, 2018: second try contacting them , this time in rusty Italian and English mix
  • Sakura Feb 25th, 2018: tried multiple times the contact form on their Japan site, which did not work, guessed an email adress (might have worked) and also contacted Sakura EU/ Royal Talens (did you know Royal Talens belongs to Sakura?)
  • Kusakabe Feb 25th : (thank you for telling about this one)
  • Home Lobby by 3l– Feb 26th: multiple tries contacting them through their EU site failed, so I tried the US one in the end
  • Above Ground Enterprises Feb 26th, 2018
  • Abralux Colori / Tommy Art Feb 26th, 2018
  • Aida Chemical Industries/ Art Clay Feb 26th, 2018 (I know the first name does not sound too good for a vegan-friendly product, but I hope for the best)
  • Alpha Art Materials: couldn’t contact them, did not find an adress
  • Alvin Feb 26th, 2018
  • American Art Clay Company /amaco – Feb 26th: First of all I got an immediate reponse but a short reply telling me to contact the marketing department (which I did immediately) and telling me to have a look at the Safety Data Sheets (SDS; which I did beforehand); I do mention this in the new mail to marketing, so I’ll see how they take my mail
  • Art & Frame of Sarasota Feb 26th, 2018
  • Boesner Feb 26th,2018 : they did not reply last year, so I hope now they will, I drastically reduced the products, I inquired about.

This is all from dizzy cranky old me right now. If you haven’t found information about a specific brand your looking for let my know (after having a go with the search box)

Here is my information sheet: definition_cruelty-free_vegan_veganartstuff_feb2018

Source: Mail contact


Definition update: what’s cruelty-free and vegan-friendly to me

Here is an update of my definition for cruelty-free companies and vegan-friendly art supplies:

  • A product can be considered vegan-friendly, if the entire product itself does not contain animal ingredients, byproducts/ derivatives and none of those are used in the manufacturing process, g. the use of animal derived oils and fats in surfactants for the dispersion of pigments and animal oils and fats are not used to form the tips of brushes; kieselguhr/diatomite is not used for filtration.
  • For a vegan-friendly product, the “entire product” has to be free of any animal derived ingredients; This includes all that contains the art supply, e.g. pans, paint tubes, the body and nibs of a marker, a pencil’s wooden body as well as lacquer, adhesive used for binding of paper pads, books, brushes and envelopes.
  • The manufacturer does not test on animals or commissions other parties to do so and do not use material data collected through animal testing done or commissioned by others such as parent-/ sister-/ affiliate companies, other partners as well as suppliers.
  • (Raw) Material used in the products and the production process may not be tested on animals by the company’s (raw) material suppliers and sub-suppliers, nor be commissioned by those.
  • There is no animal testing done/commissioned abroad for products to be sold abroad. This applies to the company and the company’s distributors.

Everything which comes from an animal origin/source, everything what is part of the animal and its anatomy and what the animal produces (beeswax, honey, milk, eggs) is unsuitable for vegans.

 Definition of the term “animal”:

  • All Vertebrates:
    • Fish
    • Amphibians
    • Reptiles
    • Birds
    • Mammals
  • All Invertebrates, e.g. sea urchins, sponges, sea stars, jellyfish, squid, lobsters, crawfish, crabs, earthworms, spiders, snails, slugs, clams, insects, sea anemones, sea gooseberries, sea urchins, corals, …

Animal derived ingredients are e.g.:

  • Beeswax, Honey
  • Charred Bones, Bone Ash, Bone Flour, Pigment PBk9
  • Bone Charcoal
  • Casein
  • Gelatine
  • Squalene
  • Squid Ink, Sepia Ink, all ink from squids and cuttlefish
  • Sepia
  • Silk
  • Tallow
  • Animal Oils, Animal Fats, Animal derived Wax (used e.g. for dispersing pigments; shaping brush tips)
  • Ox Gall, Ox Bile
  • Gall and Bile
  • Cochineal
  • Rabbit skin, e.g. rabbit skin glue, animal skin
  • Any Kind of Glue made by animal parts
  • Shellac
  • Kieselguhr/Diatomite (used e.g. for filtrating inks)
  • Natural sponge
  • Natural animal derived Hair and Bristles, e.g. of sable, marten, squirrel, mongoose, horsehair, hair from animal snouts and ears (for example Ox), pig bristles


The criteria that apply to vegan-friendly art supplies apply also to vegetarian-friendly art supplies, with the exception that beeswax-, milk- and egg-derived ingredients may be part of the product itself and used in the manufacturing process.

For vegan-friendly art supplies, neither the product itself may contain animal-derived products nor may they be used in the production process.

A Cruelty-free company does not test on animals nor commissions others to do so and does not use data provided through animal testing by other facilities or affiliate companies. Not only the production of the product and the finished product must be free of animal testing but also the supply chain. The (raw) materials and chemicals used may not be tested on animals by the supplier nor may the supplier commission animal testing for the material.

Note: I am  aware that once (most) raw materials and chemicals were tested /had to be tested on animals (several decades ago)

PDF of my definition: definition_cruelty-free_vegan_veganartstuff_feb2018


better elaborated vegan friendly and cruelty-free guidlines

The information I received yesterday (see last two entries), kept me relentlessly awake and still bothers me (required animal testing outside the EU).

For this reason I wrote all my already listed companies again and I elaborated my vegan and cruelty-free guidlines. So here they are again:

A product can be considered vegan, if the entire product itself does not contain animal ingredients, byproducts/ derivatives and none of those are used in the manufacturing process. The manufacturer does not test on animals or commissions other parties to do so, none of their parent and sister companies or any other partners test on animals or commission animal testing, none of their raw material suppliers and subsuppliers test on animals or commission animal testing, if there are other options. (According to the European Chemicals Agency, ECHA, animal testing has to be avoided if it is possible and has the goal to minimize animal testing for REACH. Lastly, there is no animal testing abroad for the manufacturer’s products to be sold abroad.)

By “entire product”, all parts of the product are meant, e.g. the ink and its jar it is contained in, the body and nibs of a marker, a pencil’s wooden body as well as lacquer/ print on it.

I hope this version will clarify my future inquiries.