I was looking at a bottle of shampoo a while back and noticed it said “only tested on party animals”.
It was a clever play on words and obviously geared to the youth market, but it did get me wondering – what has happened to animal testing? Not that its demise would be a bad thing at all, but if it is decreasing, what is replacing it?
Cosmetics testing on animals used to be quite common throughout the world – and unfortunately it still seems to be in some countries, including the USA.
The testing is meant to reveal issues such irritation, general toxicity and other problems that may occur before humans start using the product. Great for humans perhaps, not so great for the animals as some of the reactions can be quite shocking. It really is animal torture and whether this torture is justified by ” the greater good” aspect is debatable; particularly if there are alternatives.
It’s been such a controversial practice that in the European Union there has been a testing ban on finished cosmetic products since 2004. A testing ban on cosmetic ingredients or combination of ingredients commenced in 2009 in the EU and what’s called a marketing ban that will close more loopholes will be in force from 2013.
So, if you’re a cosmetics company in the EU, how do you test your products before going to market? Some may source ingredients from other parts of the world where animal testing is permitted according to the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE).
Another way is testing on human skin – hat isn’t attached to the human.
An article on the Sydney Morning Herald entitled “What Happens To Plastic Surgery Leftovers?” caught my eye recently.
The article makes mention of the L’Oreal Predictive Evaluation Center in France – a skin factory. Donor skin is sourced from the leftovers resulting from cosmetic surgery performed on women’s breasts. For every donated skin cell, the clinic engineers three more.
Called Episkin, it’s sold to 150 companies around the world and is already being used to bypass the need for animal testing.
It sounds a little gruesome, but perhaps many animals have and will be saved a life of torment as a result. Around 3000 raw materials and finished products have been tested at the facility so far – how many of those were cosmetics or bases for cosmetics the article doesn’t say.
As for the USA, perhaps there will be an end to the testing of cosmetics and personal care products on animals soon.
In early 2012 a new research collaboration between L’Oréal and the United States Environmental Protection Agency was announced; where L’Oréal will contribute $1.2 million in research funding and cosmetic ingredient safety test data to expand the types of product chemistries assessed under ToxCast; the EPA’s non-animal testing systems.
There needs to be no excuse for animal testing – and as consumers we can play a role in convincing companies they must find other ways by buying “cruelty-free” products. To learn more about cruelty-free initiatives, a good resource is Go Cruelty Free, which lists products and companies in various countries.
You can also look for the following mark on products:
This signifies the product is certified cruelty- free under the internationally-recognised Humane Cosmetics Standard (HCS) or Humane Household Products Standards (HHPS). You can view the text of the Humane Cosmetics Standard here (PDF). The Humane Household Products Standard guarantees no animal testing in items such as bleach, dish liquid and air fresheners – products I really never gave much thought to in regard to animal testing.
Of course, just because a product doesn’t bear the Leaping Bunny mark, it doesn’t mean it’s a product tested on animals; so also check with the companies who manufacture products you buy for clarification. That will also send a signal to manufacturers that their customers care about how products are tested.
Animal testing goes beyond cosmetics and household products. They are also used in biomedical, agricultural and other forms of research. Some of this testing is arguably non-essential; more of a case of “let’s see what happens when we do X” – curiosity.