Animal Origins of Fragrance

You may have a nose for fragrance, but do you have the stomach? Some fragrance ingredients have animal origins that might have you turning up your nose with distaste, while others use methods that are either cruel or lethal. Below are some perfume ingredients that might leave you fuming—and hopefully seeking out animal-friendly perfume like our essential-oil perfumes!

Hyraceum – Petrified Poo

This musky, tobacco-like ingredient sounds beautiful, but hyraceum, or African stone, has humble beginnings. Hyraceum is the petrified, jelly-like urine and feces of the rock hyrax, a small mammal found all over Africa and the Middle East. This petrified poo is harvested from the caves and passage ways where the rock hyraxes group together.[i] Unlike some scents, this one is collected without harming or killing the animal.

Ambergris – Pathological Poo

Ambergris, with its seductively sweet, yet earthy and marine-smelling aroma, is really just pathological poo. [ii] Ambergris is a smooth, waxy substance with a subtle scent that amplifies fragrance. This makes it a prized component in perfume. [iii] It forms from a sperm whale’s inability to fully digest squid. In about one percent of all sperm whales, the hard parts of the squid, called beaks and pens, make it past all four of the whales’ stomachs. There, the mass compacts and layers until it forms a solid. It either eventually continues its journey and “exits” the whale, or it causes intestinal issues that end up being fatal.[iv]

While gathering whale poo isn’t technically harmful, whales are sometimes killed with the hope of finding valuable ambergris. Possession and trade of ambergris is illegal in the U.S., but it is still allowed in several other countries, including France, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.[v] [vi]

Life stinks for fragrance animals 

If you love animals like we do, here’s a good reason to be wary of fragrance and parfum on an ingredient label. Many common ingredients are harvested from animals in very inhumane ways. Civet, for example, is an ingredient that comes from the African civet, a cat-like creature native to Africa and Asia. This thick, yellow substance is produced in the civet’s perineal gland.[vii] When fresh, the scent is described as nauseating and fecal, but it softens with age into an aromatic and even floral scent. In nature, the scent is used for marking, so it’s not surprising that it can last up to four months. It lends its longevity perfumes, which is the main reason it made its way into fragrances.[viii]

Sadly, the civets used to produce the scent often don’t last nearly as long. Cruel extraction methods, cramped living conditions and a lack of proper medical treatment make civet a no-no for anyone concerned with animal welfare. [ix]

Fragrance to die for

Many use that term in jest, but with musk and castoreum, that is a reality. Both of these fragrance ingredients are extracted from animals. Musk is taken from a little pouch just in front of the male sex organs of the musk deer. Castoreum is taken from the castor sacs of beavers. There is no way to humanely harvest either of these ingredients, and in all cases, the animal is killed.

Are there vegan perfumes?

leaping bunnySome perfume ingredients, like the ones we use in our perfumes, come from plant-derived sources. Some come from synthetic chemicals that don’t involve animals. However, unless it’s called out on the label, there is no way to be sure a perfume is animal friendly since listing fragrance ingredients isn’t required. Rest assured, Goddess Garden Essential-Oil Perfumes, like all Goddess Garden products, get their scent from pure essential oils. They are also vegan and Leaping Bunny-certified to be cruelty free.

Transparency in perfume

Animal welfare aside, we feel there is a complete lack of transparency when it comes to fragrances. It’s not a requirement to disclose any fragrance ingredients. Due to a loophole designed to protect trade secrets, any combination of thousands of chemicals and other ingredients can simply be grouped under the terms “fragrance” or parfum”. That’s why we set out to change that! Even though we don’t have to, we list each and every one of our natural ingredients. People with allergies, sensitivities, animal-welfare concerns or any other reason under the sun all deserve to know exactly what they are putting on their skin. If there’s nothing to hide, why not?

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[ii] Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Ambergris“. Encyclopædia Britannica1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 794.



[v] “Ambergris, Treasure of the Deep”. Businessweek. 2012-01-12. Retrieved 2014-03-13.


[vii] “Civet Farming: Raising a Stink. World Society for the Protection of Animals report.” Mike Pugh investigation, 1998. Report by World Society for the Protection of Animals.

[viii] “Civet Farming: Raising a Stink. World Society for the Protection of Animals report.” Mike Pugh investigation, 1998. Report by World Society for the Protection of Animals.

[ix] “Civet Farming: Raising a Stink. World Society for the Protection of Animals report.” Mike Pugh investigation, 1998. Report by World Society for the Protection of Animals.

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