It’s been a long and winding road for campaigners in Europe working to end the sale of cosmetics testing on animals, but March 11 of this year will mark a momentous victory. Beginning on that date, any company, no matter where they are located in the world, that sells new cosmetic products and ingredients in the European Union (EU) is forbidden from testing them on animals. This follows closely on the heels of Israel’s ban effective Jan. 1 of this year on the import, marketing and sale of any cosmetics, toiletries and detergents tested on animals. Advocates all over the world hope that this EU ban will diminish the amount of testing still done in other countries. For example, China requires testing of cosmetics on animals. The U.S. has no official ban, nor does Japan.
The EU Campaign
This campaign began back in 1991, when the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) established the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) to end the use of animal testing for cosmetics. In 1993, The Body Shop, which has always had a no animal testing policy, joined the campaign, and in 1996, its founder, the late Dame Anita Roddick, campaigned vigorously to end the testing. The European Parliament, after a decade of pressure, first voted to institute a ban on animal testing in 2003.
Although most animal testing on these items has been banned in the EU since 2009, the cosmetics industry successfully lobbied to delay the implementation of a complete ban until 2013, and perhaps further. However, the new EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy Tonio Borg has determined that the ban will go into effect as originally scheduled. In Borg’s words, “I believe that the ban should enter into force in March 2013 as Parliament and Council have already decided. I am therefore not planning to propose a postponement or derogation to the ban. This decision also means that we need to step up our efforts in the development, validation and acceptance of alternative methods as well as in the international recognition of these methods. I know that ECEAE has been a valuable and knowledgeable partner in these areas and I count on your future support.”
Cruelty Free International, which was established in 2012 by the BUAV as the first global organization dedicated to ending cosmetics animal testing around the world (with British comedian/actor Ricky Gervais as its ambassador) and The Body Shop have a range of special commemorative activities in the countdown to the deadline. CFI’s Chief Executive, Michelle Thew, said of the important step next month, “This is truly an historic event and the culmination of over 20 years of campaigning. Now we will apply our determination and vision on a global stage to ensure that the rest of the world follows this lead.” Paul McGreevy, International Values Director at The Body Shop, paid tribute to customers who have supported the company’s campaign against animal testing in cosmetics for many years and said, “This great achievement in Europe is only the closure of one chapter. The future of beauty must be cruelty free.”
India Takes Positive Steps
PETA India, with the support of the Indian Council of Medical Research, has asked the Indian government to institute a ban based on the EU model. According to the animal rights group People for Animals India, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) Dr. G.N. Singh has said that the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) is examining the feasibility of banning animal testing of cosmetics. After meeting with animal activist Maneka Gandhi to discuss the legislation, Dr. Singh said, “Several developed countries have put in rules that ban testing cosmetics on animals. We are thoroughly examining them. We don’t want to be cruel to animals. If other countries don’t allow it, we will also ban animal testing of cosmetics. The decision will follow a thorough examination and a strong scientific examination.”
What About the U.S.?
There is no federal ban on animal testing of cosmetics or their ingredients in the U.S., largely due to the powerful personal-care product lobby, which has successfully fought off even basic federal regulation of their products’ safety, much as the powerful anti-vivisection lobby has long stymied efforts to reduce animal testing in medicine, even when more modern methods are available and used in other countries. However, as the website Jezebel put it, “Given that all of the world’s major cosmetics companies will now have to forswear all animal testing in order to sell their products in the 27 member nations of the European Union — a major chunk of the world’s beauty market — one effect of the new ban may be fewer animal tested products on American drug store shelves.”
PCRM has noted that “Once the EU ban is law, another half a billion people will use only cruelty-free cosmetics. The United States will become the last top cosmetics market to allow animal testing on cosmetics. There are even efforts to increase cosmetics-testing requirements within the U.S. Congress.”
Last year, Los Angeles’ local ABC affiliate reported that even though studies show that most consumers say they oppose animal testing and look for labels to show that the product is “cruelty-free,” according to the FDA, there is “no legal definitions for these terms.” Although a company can claim that a product is cruelty free, according to Vicki Katrinak, Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), “It could still be tested on animals. The component ingredients could definitely be tested on animals.” Both the CCIC, with the Leaping Bunny symbol, and PETA have shopping guides to help consumers choose cruelty-free products.
It is hoped that the new EU regulation will help force companies in other countries to change their animal testing practices if they want to compete in the lucrative European market. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has noted that “Once the EU ban is law, another half a billion people will use only cruelty-free cosmetics. The United States will become the last top cosmetics market to allow animal testing on cosmetics. There are even efforts to increase cosmetics-testing requirements within the U.S. Congress.” Until then, cruelty-free consumers in the U.S. can use their voices to persuade their legislators to follow in the footsteps of Israel, Europe, and India, while using their dollars to support only cruelty-free companies.
Courtesy Image: Jodi Truglio- Photo taken of the Lush window in Las Vegas, NV.