We decided to switch to cruelty-free, but why did we make this choice? Why does animal testing still exist in the cosmetics industry?
Humane Society International estimate that approximately 100,000 to 200,000 animals suffer and die for cosmetics every year around the world. The tests are very cruel and involve applying chemicals to the animals’ skin and eyes; repeated force-feeding lasting weeks or months; and forcing animals to swallow large amounts of a substance to determine how much of a dose is lethal. Pain relief is not provided and all animals are killed at the end of the test – if the test didn’t already kill them. This is heart breaking; I love my lipstick, but it’s definitely not worth an animal’s life.
Progress has been made to end animal testing in the cosmetics industry in a number of countries. There is a ban on animal testing for cosmetics and on selling newly animal-tested cosmetics in the EU, Norway, Israel and India. Other countries are also making positive changes. For example, in 2015, New Zealand banned the use of animals for cosmetics safety testing (domestic products only) and in 2016, Australia also passed legislation to stop cosmetic animal testing (including the sale of cosmetic products and ingredients tested on animals outside the country) which will go into effect in July 2017.
Despite these positive changes, many well-known brands are associated with animal testing. In countries where animal testing isn’t banned but it also isn’t explicitly required, the practice continues at the discretion of cosmetics companies and ingredient suppliers. For example, the Humane Society of the United States has said that ‘animal testing is still surprisingly common in the United States, where it isn’t mandatory to develop or sell products’.
So why do companies test on animals if it’s not necessary?
- Lots of companies insist on using new ingredients which don’t have existing safety data, rather than ingredients which have a long history of safe use. There are a number of methods that can be used to generate safety data for these new products which don’t involve animal testing, but sadly these methods do not currently cover every area needed to satisfy the regulators who will decide if the products can be sold.
- Convention – safety data generated using unfamiliar methods which don’t involve animal testing can unsettle regulators who normally prefer to see well-known methods which have been used for years.
And then there are countries where animal testing is explicitly required. If companies wish to import their products to China, then animal testing is required by law. Brands sign an agreement that allows their products to be tested on animals. The company is then directly involved in the animal testing as it is their responsibility to fund the tests.
In June 2014, China did relax its law on animal testing, which means animal testing is no longer required for ordinary use cosmetics manufactured and sold in China. However, the mandatory animal testing law still applies to non-ordinary cosmetics such as sunscreens, antiperspirants and hair dye manufactured and sold in China as well as any foreign cosmetics manufactured outside of China and then imported into the country.
But, even if a company manufactures products in China, there is no guarantee that the cosmetics will never be tested on an animal. Post-market testing also occurs in China, where the authorities have the power to take products off the shelves at any moment to undergo animal testing.
These are the reasons why animal testing is still an issue in the cosmetics industry.
Frustratingly, because a lot of companies realise that consumers are not too happy about animal testing, they deliberately mislead people into thinking that their brand is cruelty-free.
Many companies claim that their products are ‘not tested on animals’, but they don’t mention that they use ingredients which are tested on animals. They may say that they don’t personally test the ingredients on animals and then stay quiet about the fact that the suppliers do. Another comment to look out for is that the products will only be tested on animals if required to by law, which is basically a very diplomatic way of saying that they use new ingredients – or import products to China where animal testing is mandatory.
Nice try, L’Oréal, but we’re onto you.
So if you’re looking for cruelty-free products, it’s important to bear in mind that companies which are cruelty-free:
- Do not test their products on animals.
- Do not test their ingredients on animals and do not allow other companies to test the ingredients on animals for them.
- Only use ingredients with existing safety data.
- Do not sell their products in countries where animal testing is required by law.