Europe Bans Animal Testing for Cosmetics


Story at-a-glance -

  • Effective March 11, 2013, new cosmetics and ingredients sold in the European Union must not have been tested on animals. This includes not only beauty products, but also personal hygiene products like soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and deodorants.
  • The U.S. still allows animal testing, however, the FDA encourages the use of alternative methods before the use of animals is considered. There are a number of alternative tests cosmetics companies can use … they can also create new products using already tested ingredients.
  • If you’re interested in avoiding products tested on animals, the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) publishes a shopping guide that lists companies that have met rigorous cruelty-free standards.

By Dr. Becker

Some good news for a change! Two weeks ago on March 11th, the importation and sale of animal tested cosmetics and ingredients were banned in Europe.

Earlier in the month, the ban received the nod from Commissioner Tonio Borg who wrote, "I believe that the ban should enter into force in March 2013 as Parliament and Council have already decided. I am therefore not planning to propose a postponement or derogation to the ban."

Ban is Result of 20 Year Campaign Against Animal Testing

Thanks to the determined efforts of The Body Shop and Cruelty Free International, as of March 11, 2013, new cosmetics and ingredients sold in the European Union must not have been tested on animals. “Cosmetics” in this instance means toiletries like soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and deodorants in addition to beauty products.

According to Medical News Today, the ban sends a strong message to other countries – in particular countries like China that still insist on animal testing for cosmetics – that it’s time to respond with bans of their own.

"This is truly an historic event and the culmination of over 20 years of campaigning,” says Michelle Thew of Cruelty Free International. “Now we will apply our determination and vision on a global stage to ensure that the rest of the world follows this lead."

Animal Testing in the U.S.

The U.S. government doesn’t require animal testing for cosmetics, but has not banned the practice. The FDA’s position, updated in 2006, can be found here. The agency believes that “prior to use of animals, consideration should be given to the use of scientifically valid alternative methods to whole-animal testing.” In addition, the FDA:

“… supports the development and use of alternatives to whole-animal testing as well as adherence to the most humane methods available within the limits of scientific capability when animals are used for testing the safety of cosmetic products. We will continue to be a strong advocate of methodologies for the refinement, reduction, and replacement of animal tests with alternative methodologies that do not employ the use of animals.”

Animal testing of cosmetics uses mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other animals. Testing can include skin and eye irritation tests, force-feeding studies, and “lethal dose” tests. If you’re interested and have the stomach for it, you can get additional information here.

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS):

“At the end of a test the animals are killed, normally by asphyxiation, neck-breaking, or decapitation. Pain relief is not provided. In the United States, a large percentage of the animals used in such testing (such as laboratory-bred rats and mice) are not counted in official statistics and receive no protection under the Animal Welfare Act.”

Also according to HSUS, cosmetics manufacturers can confirm the safety of products by using ingredients already tested or those with a long track record of safe use. In addition, there are a growing number of tests that don’t involve animals that can be used to evaluate the short-term safety of untested ingredients, and non-animal tests for long-term safety are currently under development.

The HSUS recommends that cosmetics companies creating new products either use existing ingredients or invest in and develop alternative non-animal tests.

How You Can Avoid Animal-Tested Products

The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) publishes a humane shopping guide that lists the companies that have met rigorous cruelty-free standards. The guide covers cosmetics products, and also personal care, household and pet care products.

You can download the app for your iPhone, iPad or Android, print a PDF version, or request a pocket-sized guide by visiting the HSUS Animal-Friendly Shopping Tips page.

+ Sources and References