European Commission Backs Phase-Out of Animal Use in Experiments and Chemicals Tests but Ignores Citizens on Cosmetics

Posted by on July 25, 2023 | Permalink

Today, the European Commission has kick-started a plan to phase out animal testing for chemicals across Europe but will not protect the EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics. This decision is the response to the “Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics European citizens’ initiative (ECI) signed by over 1.2 million European citizens.

While we welcome the plan to ultimately eliminate animal testing for chemicals and longer-term proposals to reduce and phase out animal use in research and education, outrageously, the Commission has ignored citizens’ calls to uphold the ban on animal testing for cosmetics, despite a clear ethical and scientific imperative to move beyond the use of animals in laboratories.

Roger Kingbird / We Animals Media

The ECI calls for the EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics ingredients to be strengthened, for a transition to non-animal methods for chemical safety tests, and for a commitment to a plan to phase out all experiments on animals. Below we go through each of these objectives, the Commission’s response, and what it means for animals.

The Bad News: European Commission Fails to Protect and Strengthen the Ban on Animal Testing for Cosmetics

PETA exposed nearly 10 years ago that despite the introduction in 2009 of an EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics ingredients, animal tests for chemicals handled by industrial workers are still being required by the EU’s REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation. Disturbingly, proposed updates to REACH indicate that animal testing for chemicals, including cosmetics, is set to surge over the coming years.

However, rather than acting on the demands of over 1.2 million EU citizens, the Commission has failed to take immediate action to end the suffering of animals used in cosmetics tests. Instead it is opting to wait on the results of an ongoing court case, in which PETA is involved.

This is not good enough, and we wholly condemn the inaction on the part of the Commission.

The safety of cosmetics products and their ingredients can be – and already are – assured through the use of non-animal methods. This can be achieved for the health of consumers and workers and for the protection of the environment.

Outrageously, the Commission has reiterated its position that cosmetics ingredients can be forced down the throats of rats, mice, rabbits, and other animals under the REACH chemicals regulation and that the results of those tests may be relied upon to allow the sale of those goods on the EU market. Such a position has destroyed the EU cosmetics marketing ban, which is intended to ensure that only non-animal methods are used to assess the safety of cosmetics products and their ingredients.

L214 - Ethique & Animaux

Both REACH and the EU Cosmetics Regulation are currently under review, and PETA will be pushing for legislators to take action where the Commission has failed.

Some Good News: The End of Chemicals Tests on Animals Is on the Horizon

Finally, the Commission has heeded our calls and will initiate a roadmap to ultimately end all tests on animals for industrial chemicals, pesticides, biocides, and human and veterinary medicines.

The roadmap intends to outline the path to expanding and accelerating the development, validation, and implementation of non-animal methods as well as means to facilitate their uptake across different regulations.

Precise details are yet to be revealed, but we will be calling on the Commission to ensure that progress is swift and that measures are taken to create an expert scientific committee on non-animal assessment approaches as quickly as possible.

European Commission to Explore Plans for an EU-Wide Action to Reduce Animal Use

Every year in the EU, approximately 8 million animals suffer in laboratories – among them rabbits, mice, cats, and dogs. Substances are forcibly administered down their throats, and they are infected with debilitating diseases, genetically manipulated, given brain damage through surgery, exposed to severe pain, and used in breeding programmes designed to perpetuate this cycle of suffering.

We welcome the news that the Commission is exploring the development of a European Research Area policy action to reduce animal use in research and regulatory testing. This means mobilising all relevant authorities and EU member states to work harder at accelerating the uptake of non-animal methods and will positively impact on the ultimate goal to end all animal use. However, the actions proposed by the Commission do not constitute the root-and-branch reform demanded by EU citizens via the ECI.

The Commission must now propose meaningful changes to existing legislation and policies to set member states, regulators, and assessment bodies on the path to phasing out all uses of animals in laboratories. Therefore, we are calling on all such authorities to pursue the goals of the ECI.

What Did the European Commission Say?

Positive commitments made by the Commission in response to the ECI include the following:

  • To develop a roadmap to end all mandated tests on animals for industrial chemicals, pesticides, biocides, and human and veterinary medicines
  • To explore the creation of an expert scientific committee to provide advice on the development and uptake of non-animal approaches
  • To propose an action of the European Research Area to coordinate national policies to replace the use of animals in laboratories and speed up development and implementation of non-animal methods
  • To organise one or more workshops with experts to determine future priority areas of research to accelerate the transition to animal-free science

The time for change is now.

PETA, Cruelty Free Europe, Eurogroup for Animals, the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, and Humane Society International/Europe launched the ECI in August 2021. We secured the backing of beauty brands The Body Shop and Dove and brought together a network of European NGOs.

This is the first time in history that this number of European organisations has come together to help animals in laboratories.

During the campaign, over 1.2 million compassionate people from every corner of Europe demanded an end to animal testing and added their names to the initiative.

What’s Next?

We will keep pushing for change for animals and better testing methods in Europe. Sign up to our newsletter to follow the latest updates on the campaign:

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