What could leaving the EU mean for your make-up bag?
Brexit talks have been a hot topic of debate since the UK voted to leave the EU last July, but it’s still unclear what exactly the consequences will be and exactly what they will affect.
People are currently speculating that Brexit will affect everything from big business to scientific research and even your annual holiday or weekly food shop - but one unexpected consequence might be the impact it could have on your make-up bag.
At the moment, consumers can rest assured that beauty products produced in the UK are not tested on animals, because cosmetic animal testing has been illegal since March 2013 (although many beauty companies still test on animals overseas in countries like China, so it’s not always clear if a product is completely cruelty free).
However, UK animal testing laws come from the EU. The 2013 ban applied to all EU members and was a huge success for animals rights campaigners in this country - but what happens when we leave the EU?
Debates are raging about whether EU rules and regulations will still apply to us after Brexit. This hit the headlines again after a vote last week as part of the process to bring EU legislation into UK law.
The Lisbon Treaty includes recognition that animals are sentient and can feel pain. This is the part of the law that makes it illegal to test cosmetics on animals in the EU. Once the UK leaves the EU, these laws will not apply unless MPs vote to bring them into UK law. However, last week the Government came under intense criticism after MPs did not vote in favour of including animal sentience.
Campaigners have criticised this move, saying that it would leave animals in danger after Brexit. Michael Gove has responded in a written statement saying the Government is committed to “making the United Kingdom a world leader in the care and protection of animals.”
The Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA) released a statement shortly after Brexit was announced, reassuring concerned British consumers:
“CTPA would like to reassure its members, the cosmetics industry at large and of course our millions of consumers, that the UK decision to leave the EU does not alter the strict safety laws that govern our cosmetic products.”
However they also went on to add: “The UK as of now is still a full member of the EU and the current legal structure will stay unchanged for the time being”
So “for the time being” the cosmetic ban will stay unchanged, but will this change when we officially leave the EU?
It could go one of three ways…
Stay The Same – Most Likely
It’s quite likely, for the time being at least, that the British government will decide to keep the same animal testing regulations in place, partly because there will be so many other regulations to negotiate, which will involve amending laws and potentially take years.
This wouldn’t be a terrible outcome for cosmetic animal testing as the ban would still be in place, but there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to Britain’s stance on medical animal testing – in fact we’re one of the worst in the world when it comes to live animal tests.
Get Worse – Least Likely
There is a small possibility that leaving the EU will result in a backwards step for Britain. Rather than advances in animal-free research, we could actually see an increase in testing on animals.
Since Brexit was announced there has already been a rise in live monkey experiments in Britain, and there is a real fear that leaving the EU will mean cosmetic animal testing rules will be relaxed too. This is least likely however as in order to trade with other EU members we would still need to abide by the same regulations.
Get Better – Something To Strive Towards
The good news is life for animals stuck in labs could get better once we’ve left the EU. The advantage of Brexit means that we will be independent and able to make our own decisions without having to get approval and convince other members of the EU.
New regulations will be easier to pass, with charities such as Cruelty Free International only having to convince one government, rather than 28 governments, and politicians will no longer be able to use the excuse that they are bound by EU laws.
Brexit could also be a great opportunity for Britain to become global leaders in animal-free research, with British charities such as Animal Free Research UK leading the way in discovering innovative, humane testing procedures.
So what can you do to help right now?
With the future of Britain’s animal testing policies uncertain post Brexit, it’s more important than ever that beauty brands realise there is a huge demand from British consumers for cruelty-free cosmetics. By choosing to only buy cruelty-free cosmetics, you send a clear message to the large beauty corporations that British consumers only want to purchase from cruelty-free brands.
Unsure which brands are cruelty-free?
Check out the Leaping Bunny cruelty-free product search to find out if your favourite brands are cruelty-free: https://www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/LeapingBunny