Animal Testing

Ethical Consumer magazine cover

Last updated: June 2012



Animal testing & household cleaners


Humane Society International on a dirty secret – household cleaners and animal testing.  

Across the European Union, more than 4,000 mice, rabbits, guinea pigs and other animals suffer and die every year in laboratory poisoning tests of household products and their ingredients. Many more animals are used elsewhere in the world.

They have chemicals forced down their throats, dripped in their eyes and applied to their skin. Sometimes pregnant females are used so that their unborn babies can purposely be exposed to chemicals.

Even the widely condemned Lethal Dose tests can be used. The test exposes animals to massive doses of a substance to determine which dose causes death. The animals are forced to swallow, inhale or absorb the substance through their skin. Pain relief is not provided and the suffering they endure can last for days, months or even years.


Are they needed?

Manufacturers often claim that they don’t want to test on animals but they are required to do so by law. This isn’t strictly true – laws rarely insist that animal tests must be performed to produce a household product. It is the manufacturer’s decision to use ‘new’ ingredients or to make ‘germ killing’ and ‘anti-bacterial’ label claims, which triggers a requirement to perform animal testing.

But ethically-conscious companies can avoid this by producing goods the cruelty-free way. All they need do is formulate their products using the 8,000 or more chemical ingredients that are already established as safe and therefore don’t require further testing.

There are hundreds of cruelty-free cleaning products on the market, proving that cleaning with a clear conscience is completely possible. The ingredients they use are also more likely to be low-toxic and earth-friendly, so cruelty-free can also be better for people and the planet.


Alternative tests

However, new cosmetic ingredients can also be brought to market in a cruelty-free way – using non-animal test methods to evaluate their safety. Non-animal methods represent the very latest techniques that science has to offer. Most traditional animal tests are decades old and were developed at a time when scientists still had a very rudimentary approach to toxicity. In these tests, a range of different animal species, all with physiological and biochemical differences to humans as well as to each other, are over-dosed with chemicals and observed for signs of harm.

This approach has inherent drawbacks because when exposed to the same chemical, a mouse can react very differently than a rat or a dog or a human. Even different strains or genders of the same animal species can respond very differently to the same substance. So using these animals to predict what might occur in humans can be very misleading.

By contrast, non-animal methods such as human cell tests, three-dimensional skin models and advanced computer models can be far more relevant to humans. These methods take a more sophisticated approach to assessing toxicity by describing how chemicals interact with living systems – from the first molecular encounter through to the ultimate effect on the whole body. These non-animal methods have the added benefit of being faster and generally cheaper than animal tests.


Campaigning for animal rights

Humane Society International is campaigning to transform the safety testing of chemicals by replacing out-dated animal tests with cutting-edge non-animal techniques. We’re making real progress – policy makers, regulators and manufacturers around the globe are beginning to realise the enormous benefits of switching to more predictive, faster, cheaper and more humane test methods.

HSI combines a spectrum of approaches, from political lobbying to reduce the use of animal tests in regulations, to encouraging manufacturers to wash their hands of inhumane methods and go cruelty-free instead. And we get results.

The British government has come under intense pressure from animal protection groups, including HSI Europe, to end animal testing for household products and has recently pledged to introduce a ban. HSI will be watching closely to ensure that a ban is enforced without delay. Learn more about our campaigns at

Meanwhile, loads of cleaning products from fabric softener and floor soap to laundry detergent and air freshener have already been given the cruelty-free stamp of approval under the HSI-endorsed Leaping Bunny scheme, the world’s only internationally recognised cruelty-free standard.
Download a Leaping Bunny shopping guide to find products available from high-street supermarkets, health-food shops and on-line retailers.



Company animal testing policies

The following companies have a fixed cut-off date animal testing policy and won’t use any ingredients which have been tested on animals after a specific date (although the REACH testing regime has made this area more complex): This is the standard required by most anti-vivisection groups and they therefore all receive our best rating for animal testing policy.




Earth Friendly Products,





Faith in Nature,

Star Brands,

Lilly’s Eco Clean,



Others that also score well for animal testing include:


Sonett and



The rest of the companies in this report either openly use animal-tested chemicals or fail to demonstrate that the finished product or the ingredients have not been tested on animals since a fixed cut off date. They all receive our worst rating for animal testing policy.


Also see our page on Animal Rights boycotts.





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