The issue of cosmetic animal testing is an emotive topic. It is legal to test cosmetics on animals in 80% of the world. Prettygood is resolutely against it. This post isn’t a hyperbolic essay on the evils of the practice. There is a great deal of ‘green washing’ around the topic. We hope this is beneficial to those who wish to avoid causing needless harm to animals, by only buying cruelty-free goods.
There is a great deal of ‘green washing’ around the topic.
In cosmetic tests animals are subjected to eye / skin irritation. Companies will rub chemicals into the eyes or onto patches of skin. The animals may be orally force fed chemicals to test affects. This can be done until they die to establish the ‘lethal dose’. These tests clearly cause the animals to suffer.
Image by Tony Webster via Flickr
Cruelty-Free / Vegan
The term ‘cruelty-free’ is vague and needs to be understood in context. Companies can mean different things when they use it, especially those that are keen to appear ethical to appeal to people who want to avoid buying cruel products. Furthermore, Vegan and cruelty-free are often used interchangeably. Not all cruelty-free goods are vegan. The former may contain animal ingredients but not be tested on animals. Since vegans do not consume animal products and do not use products that have been tested on animals, this post also covers cosmetic goods derived from animal products. The law on animal testing in the UK is set out by the EU ruling in 2013.
EU Law on Animal Testing
The EU banned testing on animals for cosmetics in 2013. This means that companies are prohibited from testing final products or individual ingredients, to be sold in the EU, irrespective where the testing took place in the world. Products and ingredients that had already been tested on animals can still be sold in the EU. In the long term this may have a dramatic impact upon the number of animals tested on. Cosmetic companies have had to develop alternatives to be able to sell to the 500 million citizens of the EU. Sadly animals are still subjected to experimentation within the EU, and this is due to REACH.
The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulates the risk posed by harmful chemicals. It requires chemicals to be tested on animals should there be a risk of workforce exposure during manufacturing. This means if there is the possibility of a cosmetic ingredient posing a health risk to workers, that ingredient is required by law to be tested on animals. Legally, companies can comply with the 2013 ban but use the REACH loophole and still claim to be cruelty free. Between 13 and 54 million animals could be tested on due to requirements to test 30,000 chemicals between 2009-2018.
Image : PETA / Wikipedia
This presents a challenge to people who want to live cruelty free. The only way to be sure is to purchase products from companies who have clear polices on the issue. The leaping bunny and Vegan Society symbols are guarantees that products have not be tested on animals. Countries around the world that have have taken similar steps as the EU are:
Numerous countries are in the process of banning the cruel practice, though to different degrees:
- New Zealand
- South Korea another article on the law in South Korea can be found here
The position for cruelty-free folk in the UK / Europe generally is far from clear. Global brands add further confusion due to animal testing laws around the world, with China being of particular note because of the size of the Chinese market.
The Role of China
Though cosmetic products in the EU are not tested on animals anymore, it doesn’t mean companies trading in Europe are cruelty free. The issue is complicated by companies trading globally. Multinationals trading around the world are still financially profiting from animal testing. Between 100,000 – 300,000 animals are subjected to cosmetic tests in China every year. The Chinese consumer cosmetics market is the second largest in the world (US being the largest). It has annual retail sales of £20 billion (source: marketwatch.com). Until 2014 all cosmetic products sold in China had to be tested on animals. Although there has been a change in law it is minor.
Between 100,000 – 300,000 animals are subjected to cosmetic tests in China every year.
The position pre-2014 required a sample of products to be tested on animals before being released on the Chinese market. This applied to domestic and international products. The Chinese authorities would take random samples of post-market products and conduct animal tests to verify the pre-market results.
The amendment in law means that ‘non specific’ cosmetic goods (shampoo / soap) that are produced inside mainland China, for sale inside China, do not have to be tested on animals. The ingredients must also be on the Inventory of Existing Cosmetics Ingredients in China (IECIC). Products which don’t fulfil these criteria still have to be tested, and manufacturers are able to test on animals if they wish regardless. Post-market testing still takes place. Upwards of 10,000 animals could potentially be saved annually as a result of the changes in law.
Companies wishing to trade in China must still have their products tested on animals. However, cruelty-free companies can sell goods to customers in China as long as the product and website are based outside of China. The pre-market & post-market testing do not apply to eCommerce.
Further information can be found on Humane Society International website and on this PDF they produced. Companies who trade in China can not be cruelty-free. But what about companies who do not trade in China, but are owned by companies that do trade in China?
Company Brands / Partnership
The complexity of the issue is compounded by company ownership. Multinational cosmetic companies may conduct animal testing themselves or pay third parties to do this. For example L’Oreal claim they do not test or delegate the task to others. But, as usual there is a loophole. In essence they can use chemicals tested on animals if the chemicals were not tested for the cosmetics market. As mentioned above, they still carry out testing when, ‘regulatory authorities required it for safety or regulatory purposes’. L’Oreal have a number of brands, for example Garnier & Lancome. They bought The Body Shop in 2006.
L’Oreal is the worlds largest cosmetics company and as such the profitability of its component brands / partners strengthens it immensely.
If you want to be cruelty free can you shop at The Body Shop? The company recently came under fire for selling goods at Chinese airports. The Body Shop may not test on animals but L’Oreal does. L’Oreal is the worlds largest cosmetics company and as such the profitability of its component brands / partners strengthens it immensely. This illustrates how confusing the issue is for consumers. A seemingly animal-friendly company, with its slick green branding, exists only in name since it sold out.
To avoid buying cosmetics that are tested on animals, you’ll need to research. I hope this post helps you ask the right questions and understand the factors involved. Companies’ polices and values change over time. Just because a company is on point at the moment doesn’t mean this will always be the case. Companies are aware of the laws and loopholes in the EU and in the rest of the world. They make a choice to trade in China, for example.
Equally, businesses are aware of the REACH requirements. They can avoid using potentially harmful chemicals. The smoke screen put up by some is the main sticking point. Be sure to ask if companies / suppliers have tested ingredients, not initially intended for the cosmetics industry, on animals. Tests are carried out so companies can market new formulas / updated products, to you the consumer. This is done to make money. And they do it by causing animals to suffer.
Below is a video on the topic: