We will remember 11 March 2013 as a monumental day for animals, consumers and modern science. The European Parliament had already banned cosmetics companies from tormenting animals in cruel tests on European Union (EU) soil - but companies that tested their products on animals elsewhere were still able to sell them here. Until today.
The deadline for the final phase of the historic ban on animal testing for cosmetics ingredients has arrived, and now any company anywhere in the world that wishes to market its personal-care products in the EU will have to abandon all animal tests for both the finished products and their ingredients. Most companies aren't willing simply to forgo the large European market, so they have been investing in advanced non-animal testing methods that save animals' lives and protect people far better.
We who work on these issues around the world applaud the people of Europe and the European Parliament and urge the rest of the world to follow your very good example.
The EU ban reflects the public's conviction that cosmetics should not be valued over animals' well-being. In addition to being isolated in small barren cages, the rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats and other animals who are used in cosmetics tests have chemicals dumped into their eyes, poured down their throats and ground into their abraded skin. They are typically given no pain relief. When their battered bodies are no longer useful for tests, they are killed.
But as companies have embraced modern testing methods to comply with the EU ban, they have already spared hundreds of thousands of animals from torment, and now, many, many more will be saved.
Animals aren't the only ones whose suffering will be spared. Because human and animal genetic makeup is vastly different, tests performed on donated human tissue are much more reliable indicators of a chemical's effects than tests done on animals, decreasing the likelihood of a product having adverse effects. For instance, instead of measuring how damaging a chemical is to a rabbit's cornea, manufacturers can drop that same chemical onto human tissue grown in a laboratory and get a much more accurate analysis. And instead of grinding chemicals into an animal's skin for irritancy testing, researchers can use human skin cultures. These and other non-animal tests are also usually less expensive and yield results more quickly than animal tests do, which helps keep consumer costs down.
One CEO who spoke to PETA told us that companies continue to torment animals in cruel tests simply because they have always done so and don't have the vision to try a new and better way. So the EU cosmetics testing ban - along with the similar ban in place in Israel and the one being considered in India - forces companies to modernise their archaic testing protocol. As a result, advanced testing methods will become more and more mainstream, and other types of companies will also begin to exchange cruel tests on animals for humane and accurate non-animal ones. And it's about time: Animal testing for cosmetics was born in the 1920s. We aren't still hanging onto the same types of phones, cars or word-processing devices that we used nearly a century ago, so why should we still rely on the same tests for products?
PETA is working to help companies embrace the cutting-edge techniques available today and to ensure that regulatory bodies accept the results of the tests. When PETA US learned that China is requiring cosmetics companies to pay for their products to be tested on animals before they can be sold there, we awarded a grant to scientists from the Institute for In Vitro Sciences, Inc (IIVS), to travel to China and work with scientists and government officials. The IIVS team members are guiding their Chinese colleagues in the use of in vitro (test tube) testing methods. One of these tests, called the 3T3 Neutral Red Uptake Phototoxicity Assay, which gauges the potential toxicity of chemicals when they come into contact with sunlight, is already used widely in the US and the EU. Thanks to the IIVS team, China is now on the verge of approving the use of this test as the country's first non-animal testing method. And PETA and all our international affiliates continue to work with companies and governments around the globe to have more such tests approved for use.
The EU is leading the way for the rest of the world. The people have spoken, the lawmakers have jumped onboard and we have brought about social change. It is indeed a proud day.
Follow Kathy Guillermo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kathygfrompeta