Canada Moves Closer to Banning Cosmetics Testing on Animals

cosmetics test on animals

Story at-a-glance -

  • The Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act (Bill S-214) has cleared the Senate in Canada, moving the country one step closer to banning cosmetics testing on animals
  • The Act, which was introduced in 2015 by Sen. Carolyn Stewart Olsen in collaboration with Humane Society International (HIS) and Animal Alliance of Canada, would make it illegal to test any cosmetics on animals
  • The sale of cosmetics developed or manufactured using animal testing would also be prohibited
  • The Act will now go to the House of Commons before it becomes law
  • Although many countries have banned cosmetics testing on animals, the practice still persists across the globe; an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 animals are subjected to such testing every year

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

The Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act (Bill S-214) has cleared the Senate in Canada, moving the country one step closer to banning cosmetics testing on animals. The Act, which was introduced in 2015 by Sen. Carolyn Stewart Olsen in collaboration with Humane Society International (HIS) and Animal Alliance of Canada, would make it illegal to test any cosmetics on animals.

The sale of cosmetics developed or manufactured using animal testing would also be prohibited. It will now go to the House of Commons before it becomes law.

The move follows a growing campaign in Canada calling for the cruel practice to end. According to the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, thousands of Canadians wrote to the senate committee asking them to support Bill S-214.1 More than 630,000 people also signed a petition organized by The Body Shop Canada, demanding for cosmetics testing on animals to be banned.2

"Already 37 countries — including the world's largest beauty markets — have taken action to ban cruel cosmetics, and it's high time Canada did the same," said Troy Seidle, HIS vice president of research and toxicology.3 Toby Milton, president of The Body Shop Canada, added, "There is absolutely no need for cosmetic animal testing in 2018."4

Hundreds of Thousands of Animals Still Suffer for Cosmetics

Although many countries have banned cosmetics testing on animals, the practice still persists across the globe, including in the U.S. According to HIS, an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 animals are subjected to such testing every year, with suffering and, often, death, the inevitable outcome.

Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats and mice are the animals most commonly used for cosmetics testing, which may include dropping chemicals into their eyes or onto their shaved skin to test for irritation. In other tests, animals may be force-fed chemicals to look for risks such as cancer or birth defects, or given large quantities of a test chemical to determine the "lethal dose."

"These tests can cause considerable pain and distress including blindness, swollen eyes, sore bleeding skin, internal bleeding and organ damage, birth defects, convulsions and death," HIS notes. "Pain relief is not provided and at the end of a test the animals are killed, normally by asphyxiation, neck-breaking or decapitation."5

Further, in countries like the U.S., companies are not required to use animals when testing cosmetics for safety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, does not necessarily discourage it either, stating, "[T]he agency has consistently advised cosmetic manufacturers to employ whatever testing is appropriate and effective for substantiating the safety of their products."6

The FDA does state that it supports the development and use of alternatives to whole-animal testing, but this still allows the practice to continue. There are still some countries, including China, where animal testing is required in order for products to be sold. Cruelty-free companies choose not to conduct animal testing and instead pledge to not sell their products in China until the law is changed.

Why Are Cosmetics Companies Still Testing on Animals?

In many cases, companies continue to use this inhumane method because it's the way they've been doing it for decades. Rather than develop new testing methods or adopting one of the newer animal-free testing technologies to assess the safety of new ingredients, they hang on to the outdated and cruel practice. In many cases, the tests may not even be accurate, as it's widely known that results from animal tests don't always apply directly to humans and may over- or underestimate hazards.

"In contrast, non-animal alternatives can combine human cell-based tests and sophisticated computer models to deliver human-relevant results in hours or days, unlike some animal tests that can take months or years. Non-animal alternatives are also typically much more cost-effective than tests that use animals," the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) points out.7

Not only can cosmetics companies choose to use ingredients that already have a history of safe use (and thus require no new safety data or testing), but also they can choose to use non-animal testing alternatives; more than 40 such tests have already been developed for use. Among them:

  • Artificial human skin, such as EpiSkin™, EpiDerm™ and SkinEthic, can be used to test for skin corrosion and irritation
  • Eyes from animals slaughtered in the meat industry can be used for eye irritation testing
  • To test for "phototoxicity" due to sunlight, the 3T3 Neutral Red Uptake Phototoxicity Test is available and replaces the need to use mice

Even testing that meant to replicate effects on the whole body can be achieved without animals using an "integrated testing strategy." According to HIS:8

"This means instead of replacing them with one single test, a combination of molecular, genetic, cell and tissue tests [is] used. Scientists divide the human body according to its various cell types (brain, skin, lung, liver, etc.) and each of these cell types is then individually tested in tissue culture systems. Then, to reconstruct the whole body scenario again, cutting-edge computer models are used to relate the test results to expected real-world conditions for a living, breathing human being."

Ditch Cosmetics Companies That Still Use Animal Testing

Countries like Canada are making the move for all cosmetics to be cruelty free, but if you live in a country where the practice is still allowed, it's up to you to choose to support the companies that have ended animal testing on their own.

If you live in the U.S., you can help by contacting your U.S. Representative and asking him or her to support the Humane Cosmetics Act, H.R. 2790, which would prohibit animal testing for cosmetics manufactured or sold in the U.S. You can also contact your favorite cosmetics brands and urge them to stop animal testing. Also, HIS advises asking the company whether it:

  • Conducts animal tests on its products or ingredients
  • Purchases newly developed ingredients that have been animal-tested by the supplier
  • Sells its products to countries like China that may require new animal testing

"If the answer to any of these questions is yes, put the product back on the shelf," they say.9 If you're unsure whether any of your cosmetics products are cruelty-free, the Leaping Bunny Shopping Guide can help you find certified cruelty-free products.