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Animal Testing: The Ugly Secret of the Beauty Industry

While testing cosmetics such as lipstick and shampoo on animals was banned in the European Union in 2009, elsewhere around the world animal suffering for cosmetics continues.

While testing cosmetics such as lipstick and shampoo on animals was banned in the European Union in 2009, elsewhere around the world animal suffering for cosmetics continues. Rabbits still have chemicals dripped into their eyes or rubbed into their shaved skin, and rodents still have substances forced down their throats or injected into their blood to observe toxic effects. Even pregnant animals are dosed with chemicals to test the effects on their unborn babies. These tests cause suffering and ultimately death - just to produce a new shade of lip-gloss or a reformulated skin cream.

In an ideal world, consumers should be able to shop anywhere and know that the cosmetics they buy haven't been tested on animals. That's why Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States want to make that dream a reality with the launch of the largest ever global campaign to end animal testing for cosmetics.

Launched simultaneously throughout Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and the United States, the Be Cruelty-Free campaign aims to inform consumers and to change hearts and minds within the cosmetics industry and governments. The goal is to achieve a world where no animal has to suffer for the sake of cosmetics.

In a handful of countries, animal testing for cosmetics remains a legal requirement so HSI and others are working to change those laws and gain authorities' acceptance of non-animal tests. In most other countries, however, animal testing continues even though it is not specifically required. In the US and Canada, for example, the law only requires that companies assure their products are safe, but it does not prescribe animal testing as the method to prove that safety. Whilst hundreds of companies produce thousands of innovative beauty products without any animal tests, others continue to rely on inhumane and unnecessary animal testing.

Cruelty-free companies avoid animal testing by using the thousands of existing cosmetic ingredients already established as safe, combined with available non-animal test methods such as the EpiDerm artificial human skin model. However, if companies insist on using 'new to the world' ingredients without existing data and for which non-animal tests are not yet available, the 'need' for animal tests can be triggered. For these companies, the solution is simple: avoid new ingredients until their safety can be assured using strictly non-animal methods.

Even though cosmetics testing on animals may take place in laboratories far away from the EU, for as long as the resulting products continue to be sold in our shops, consumers are still unknowingly paying for testing deemed too unethical to be permitted within our own borders. But hopefully not for much longer.

Next year the EU is set to extend its domestic ban on cosmetics animal testing by also outlawing the sale in Europe of cosmetics that have been subject to animal testing anywhere in the world after 11 March 2013, if such testing was carried out for the purpose of EU cosmetics regulation.

There has been considerable opposition from the cosmetics industry and the ban has already been delayed three times. As the 2013 deadline approaches, there is again a real threat of further delays, perhaps by years.

Implementing the ban in full and on time is vital because it gives cosmetic companies a very simple choice: either stop testing on animals or lose out on the lucrative EU market. This is a persuasive financial incentive to change, and could signal the beginning of the end for cosmetics cruelty.

Preventing cruelty isn't the only reason for the cosmetics industry to end its controversial relationship with animal testing; there are also compelling scientific reasons. Most animal toxicity tests are decades old, developed when scientists had only a rudimentary understanding of toxicity, largely based on chemically overdosing animals of different species until they became ill or died. The problem is that different animal species, and even different strains or genders within species, respond differently to the same chemical. Scientists are increasingly questioning whether the results of animal tests for cosmetics have any relevance to human safety at all.

By contrast, modern non-animal test methods aren't obscured by species differences because they focus instead on data relevant to people. There are a host of human cell and tissue-based research methods that are already available and validated, but it is the next generation of 21st century toxicity tests that should make animal testing a relic of history. In one approach pioneered in the US, tests on human cells are used to predict how chemical reactions at the molecular level could lead to chemical harm in the body or its specific organs.

Whereas some companies have become defined by their refusal to stop animal testing, others are defined by their opposition to it. Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics is one such company, producing exciting and cruelty-free beauty products in 48 countries worldwide. At the heart of its philosophy is a complete rejection of animal testing and a determination to remove its stain from the cosmetics industry. The company has never tested on animals, has a strict rule of boycotting suppliers that test on animals, and is wholly independent, so it does not belong to a parent company involved with animal testing. The company lives its ethical principles in every product it produces.

That's why Lush has been the perfect company with whom HSI and The HSUS have launched the first stage in our global campaign. In more than 700 Lush stores from Dubai to Delhi, London to Louisiana, Lush customers have been signing our Be Cruelty-Free pledge to show their support for an end to cosmetics cruelty both nationally and internationally. We'll be using those pledges to demonstrate the strength of public support for an end to animal testing, and asking lawmakers to turn those pledges into action for animals