14/04/2016 13:10 BST | Updated 15/04/2017 06:12 BST

This Article Was Not Tested on Animals

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Why would a news article be tested on animals? But wait, if this article wasn't tested on animals, what about the next one I read? That didn't have any kind of disclaimer.

It's as if I starting selling shampoo with a clear label telling people that my product wasn't made by killer robots. I mean in a world where we have drone warfare, an AI Go Champion, and a lengthening list of Terminator films, is it so entirely implausble? I mean which would you buy?


Yet this same trick is played on British (and European) consumers with cosmetic testing on animals. A quick trip to your local high street will find products with "not tested on animals" or "cruelty free" written on them - this is true, but many consumers read this to mean that other products are tested on animals.

Let us be clear. It is illegal to test cosmetics or their ingredients within the UK (or elsewhere in the EU) - it has been illegal in the UK since 1998. Since March 2013 it has also been illegal to sell cosmetics products within the EU which have been, or which contain ingredients, newly tested on animals.

These facts are not well known. A recent internet quiz by Understanding Animal Research, of over 4,000 people, revealed that only 38% of respondents were aware that cosmetic testing is illegal in the UK. Respondents were asked to select from a list which shops they believed used animals to test the cosmetic products they sold in the UK. Boots, Tesco and Sainsbury's were all picked by over 40% of people; The Body Shop was selected by 30% and Lush by 14%.

So why the confusion? Recently, I spoke to seventy students at a London school; when I asked them how many animals were used in the UK to test cosmetics each year only two got the right answer - most thought there were around one million animals used. When I asked students why they thought this, a number pointed to Lush's "Fighting Animal Testing" advertising.


Clockwise from top left: The Body Shop, Superdrug, Lush, The Body Shop

When brands like Lush put "Fighting Animal Testing" or Superdrug write "Superdrug is against animal testing" on the back of their cosmetics, it can leave consumers with the mistaken idea that other brands might do such tests.

According to Wendy Jarrett, CEO of Understanding Animal Research: "The proliferation of 'Not tested on animals' or 'Cruelty-Free' logos has led many to believe that other cosmetic products sold on the UK market are tested on animals - something which has not been the case for 18 years. While animals continue to play a small but key role in medical developments, the UK has successfully eliminated such testing for cosmetics and, more recently, household products."

Now some of these brands have reasons to write these things. Lush supports animal rights groups for their work opposing biomedical research. Yet when a message is reduced to "Fighting Animal Testing" in a shop full of cosmetics, it is unsurprising if many consumers are left with the wrong impression. One might express more surprise for Superdrug, who claim to be against animal testing despite often containing in-house pharmacies which provide medicines and treatments developed and tested using animals.

Other high street brands should fight back. Understanding Animal Research has written to all major supermarkets and cosmetic retailers, urging them to put additional information in their stores to help inform the public. Such actions would help clear a misconception which is affecting over half of the British public.

So maybe I should have been clearer at the start and stated that no articles have been written by killer robots, but since I'd rather you read my article and not someone else's, well..