This week marks the fifth anniversary of the comprehensive European-wide ban on testing cosmetics products on animals.
For those of us who care about animal welfare this milestone is important, not only have countless animals been spared suffering but as European cosmetics companies have continued to thrive, it has proven to the rest of the world that animal testing for cosmetics is wholly unnecessary.
Cruelty free manufacturing processes can concentrate on the countless ingredients proven safe for humans, while new technology and cutting-edge science has shown major advances in ‘non-animal’ testing procedures. Everything from using synthetic skin to computer simulations are now just as successful at predicting outcomes as those procedures involving live animals.
However, the fight continues, so that where the European Union has led others will follow. The latest figures from the Humane Society International (HSI), estimate that as many as 200,000 animals still suffer or die from cosmetic testing every year across the globe. The animals used for cosmetic testing - rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats and mice - are involved in a process which typically includes chemicals rubbed onto shaved skin, dripped into eyes or forced ingestion. These are not one-off events, often testing involves repeating experiments on the same creature throughout its life, so the longer term health implications of testing, and even future birth defects, can be calculated. Once testing has concluded the animals are always put-down.
So where is the campaign to ban cosmetic testing on animals now? From 2009 the ban came into law across the 28 countries of the EU, from 2013 cosmetic products or ingredients subject to new animal testing were also banned. Both India and Israel made the final changes to their laws banning animal testing from 2013 as well, and in 2015 New Zealand joined the #BeCrueltyFree nations.
The pattern for achieving real change, led by groups like Cruelty Free International and the HSI now involves turning attention towards winning over local and regional legislatures, in order to create a domino effect towards meaningful national legislation. For instance, Sao Paulo introduced a complete ban on cosmetic animal testing in 2014, leading to a wider legislative bill under consideration across the rest of Brazil, and similar laws are currently under consideration in Australia and Taiwan.
The issue however remains, that in most of the world, animal cosmetic testing is still completely legal. That is why I am part of a campaign calling on the United Nations to adopt an international convention that will finally end all animal cosmetic testing across the globe, harmonising existing legislature and providing some much needed backup to regulators. This is clearly the best route for serious change, as it would remove testing loopholes and mean there is no market for animal tested cosmetic products. Next month, I will vote in the European Parliament in support of a global testing ban by 2023 under the auspices of the UN. I am confident that a majority of my colleagues will do the same, so it becomes EU policy to support such a UN convention.
Meanwhile a petition backing a global ban through the UN, which is being promoted in Body Shop stores in 65 countries, currently has 4.6 million signatures (you can sign it here).
This week I will travel to New York, where the two legislative methods for change are both in full swing. At the UN I will meet members of their Environment programme and at a local level will meet assembly member, Linda Rosenthal, author of the New York state bill which proposes a phased ban on the import and sale of cosmetics tested on animals. The bill, if passed, would make the state the first in the United States to usher in cruelty free style legislation, copying the blueprint laid out by the EU several years earlier.
As a nation of animal lovers, British public opinion was crucial in getting Europe to lead the way. Now on the anniversary of success, I hope we can help spread the cruelty-free message worldwide.