Last updated: September 2012
The Ugly Truth about Beauty Products
Wendy Higgins from Humane Society International (UK) explains why animal testing of cosmetics is still going on and what people can do to campaign against it.
Despite the fact that animal tests for cosmetics ended in the United Kingdom in 1997, and have been banned by law across the European Union since 2009, laboratory animal suffering for the beauty industry still continues. In laboratories in countries such as China, the United States, India and Russia, cosmetic chemicals are still being rubbed onto the sensitive and shaved skin of guinea pigs, dripped into the eyes of rabbits and force-fed into rats' stomachs.
These tests can last for days, weeks or even months. In some countries even the widely condemned "lethal dose" test is still used, in which animals are forced to swallow massive amounts of a cosmetic chemical to find out the dose that causes death. Tests like these can cause immense suffering and distress – and are increasingly seen as a poor predictor of toxicity in humans.
Across Europe, animal testing for cosmetics is banned under the EU's Cosmetics Directive, but cosmetics companies can still test on animals in other countries and sell those products back to the EU market.
The same EU Cosmetics Directive was written to contain a sales ban on the sale of cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals in non-EU countries Originally due for implementation in 1998 and despite being passed as law, its implementation has continually been delayed. Now that it is due to come into force in March 2013, policy makers are once again considering delaying or weakening its provisions.
Humane Society International has been leading a campaign in Europe to see the ban implemented in full and on schedule, and recently joined forces with Lush Handmade Cosmetics to deliver more than 350,000 petition signatures to the European Commission to save the 2013 ban.
Beauty without animal cruelty
Cosmetics companies can stop animal testing immediately and still produce new, safe and exciting beauty products by manufacturing the cruelty-free way. Firstly, companies can use ingredients that are already known to be safe, of which there are thousands. These ingredients don't require any new testing.
Secondly, if companies need to produce new data about an ingredient, they can use available non-animal test methods. More than 40 non-animal tests have been validated for use such as EPISKIN, EpiDerm and SkinEthic and the 3T3 neutral red uptake test. These modern alternatives can offer results that are more relevant to people, often more cheaply and efficiently too.
Leaving animal tested cosmetics on the shop shelf is one of the simplest ways you can support the Be Cruelty-Free campaign. However, there are lots of animal testing claims out there, so it can be confusing for consumers to make sense of it all. Statements like "against animal testing" could simply indicate a corporate aspiration rather than a cast-iron commitment, and a label stating that "this product has not been tested on animals" could be hiding the fact that some or all of the product's ingredients have been animal tested even if the final product hasn't been.
One of the best ways to cut through the myriad claims is to buy cosmetics from companies whose commitment you can trust, such as those certified by the Leaping Bunny Global Shopping Guide. In the UK the leaping bunny guide is produced by the BUAV and is downloadable from www.gocrueltyfree.org/shopper.
In Ethical Consumer, the buyers' guide tables also have a column on Animal Testing which indicates whether or not companies have a credible commitment to avoiding animal testing.
‘Be Cruelty-Free' global campaign
Animal testing is a global issue, and ethical consumers from all around the world are invited to get active in the cause. HSI recently launched Be Cruelty-Free – the largest-ever global campaign to end animal testing for cosmetics.
Be Cruelty-Free is reaching out to consumers and policy makers in Europe, India, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and beyond to achieve a world where no animal has to suffer for the sake of cosmetics such as lipstick or shampoo.
Please sign HSI's global cruelty free pledge at www.hsi.org/becrueltyfree