First Published in The Huffington Post, 23rd October 2013
This article is NOT about testing on animals for the purpose of medical research. Instead, I want to talk about the testing of cosmetic products on animals and how to make consumer choices that are truly ‘cruelty free’. I have two guinea pigs and two hamsters. The thought of them having chemicals rubbed into their eyes, noses and mouths just so I can have some mascara and foundation, is entirely repellent. I love makeup and hair products but they are completely non-essential to human life.
The ban on testing of cosmetics on animals has been in the pipeline for quite a while. The EU introduced the first sanction in 2004 and by 2009, the testing of cosmetic ingredients on animals and the sale of the finished product were both banned. Since March 2013, it has been made illegal to market any cosmetic products in the EU that have involved animal testing, regardless of where in the world the tests were carried out. The 2009 ban still allowed companies to test for the most complex health risks on animals (including toxicity that could lead to cancer), but these are now prohibited.
So what does this mean for the cosmetics industry and for consumers? Can we now buy all cosmetic products with confidence? Unfortunately not. An eyeliner or concealer stick or bottle of perfume and its ingredients bought in the EU cannot be tested on animals, but there are lots of big companies who want to sell to the Chinese market. The legal requirement in China is currently for cosmetics to be tested on animals before they can be sold. This means that although YOUR EU product will not be tested on animals, you might still be supporting a company that tests on animals elsewhere in the world.
Cruelty Free International is an organisation that works solely to end animal testing for cosmetic purposes. Michelle Thew, the Chief Executive of Cruelty Free International says that “the EU cosmetics ban has been a huge victory for animals and we are already seeing a positive knock-on effect around the world”. It is hoped that companies will streamline their testing practices globally, and bring all their practices in line with EU regulations. Cruelty Free International is currently active in Korea, Brazil, China, the USA and Vietnam, pressing regulators to move away from animal testing. Big cosmetics companies selling to both the EU and China will now have to conduct two separate forms of testing, which isn’t particularly cost effective. There are now viable alternatives to animal testing, including the use of in vitro screens to test for irritation and corrosion, even on very sensitive skin. PETA and the Centre for Alternatives to Animal Testing both endorse this method of testing.
To shop with confidence, choose products with the Leaping Bunny logo, endorsed by Cruelty Free International. These products have passed a stringent standards examination and do not sell products in China. My favourites are Lush, Barry M, Neal’s Yard and Superdrug. Neal’s Yard can be pretty pricey but the other brands certainly won’t break the bank and can be purchased on a student or low-income budget.
Lex Croucher, one of the UK’s leading female YouTubers, has previously vlogged on the subject of animal testing for cosmetic purposes. She says “if you care about ending animal testing it’s so important to check the policies of the brands you use and to contact them to let them know how you feel about the issue”. Lex adds that “it’s great to see that the law is changing and I’m hopeful that some of the more popular cosmetics companies will be forced to change their practices because of it, but until it’s been made clear that these brands have stopped all aspects of animal testing I certainly won’t be going anywhere near them”.
Companies to avoid currently include: Avon, Armani, Aussie, Benefit, Bobbi Brown, Cacherel, Chanel, Clarins, Clearasil, Clinique, Elizabeth Arden, Estee Lauder, Dove, L’Oreal, Lancome, MAC Cosmetics, Michael Kors, MaxFactor, Maybelline, Neutrogena, Olay, Pantene, Ralph Lauren Fragrances, Redken, Revlon, Rimmel, YSL, and Vichy. Hopefully this will change in the near future.