Court of Justice of the European Union’s Ruling Destroys Ban on Animal Testing for Cosmetics
22 November 2023: Court of Justice of the European Union’s Ruling Destroys Ban on Animal Testing for Cosmetics
The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled against cosmetics ingredients manufacturer Symrise AG, which sought to overturn a decision mandating that it test cosmetics ingredients on thousands of animals.
This damning verdict has made a mockery of the judicial system by effectively destroying the once groundbreaking EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics.
What Was the Case About?
Symrise AG, a German manufacturer, was being mandated to test two of its sunscreen ingredients on thousands of animals by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Symrise challenged ECHA’s position before the ECHA Board of Appeal, and PETA International Science Consortium Ltd intervened in support of Symrise in the hearing. The board upheld the initial decision, but with the support of the Science Consortium, Symrise appealed to the Court of Justice of the European Union. Read the blog post updates below to learn more about the case and PETA’s involvement.
What Does the Outcome Mean for Animals?
In one fell swoop, the court has sentenced thousands of rats, rabbits and fish to horrific suffering and certain death in cruel tests and rendered the groundbreaking cosmetics animal testing ban worthless.
Mice, rats, rabbits and fish are still being forced to ingest cosmetics ingredients to fulfil regulatory requirements under the REACH chemicals regulation.
We condemn the Court of Justice of the European Union for ignoring the purpose of the cosmetics animal testing ban, which was to ensure that only superior, non-animal methods are used to assess the safety of cosmetics.
PETA will persist in our work to protect both animals and the right of European citizens to purchase cruelty-free cosmetics, standing strong even if ECHA and the Court of Justice of the European Union appear indifferent to modern values.
You can help put pressure on decision-makers. Send a message to the European commissioner for the environment telling him what you think about the practice of poisoning and killing animals in cruel and unreliable tests:
Update (22 November 2022): On 22 November, the EU’s ban on testing cosmetics on animals was defended in front of the Court of Justice of the European Union, as Symrise AG brought forward its case challenging the European Chemicals Agency’s demand that two ingredients commonly found in sunscreen be tested on 5,500 animals.
PETA Science Policy Manager Dr Julia Baines was there to assist legal experts in the case. By going to court, we are calling on the EU to uphold the ban on cruel and ineffective animal tests.
The outcome of the precedent-setting case will not only affect the animal testing requirements for 2-ethylhexyl salicylate and homosalate but also provide clarity regarding how the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation will be interpreted for all cosmetics ingredients.
Upholding the ban on animal testing for cosmetics would mean that REACH cannot be used to undermine it, cruelty-free companies would not have to reformulate products or look for alternative suppliers, and the UK, Australia, and other countries with policies based on the EU ban would receive a strong message against allowing loopholes.
The public overwhelmingly rejects the cruelty of animal testing: more than 1.2 million EU citizens supported a European citizens’ initiative calling on the European Commission to protect and strengthen the ban on testing cosmetics on animals.
Update (19 August 2021): Cruelty-free cosmetics have been under threat ever since the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Commission first announced their policy to require tests on animals for cosmetics ingredients. PETA entities have fought this policy at every opportunity.
In 2018, when Symrise AG contested ECHA’s demand that two ingredients be tested on 5,500 animals, PETA International Science Consortium e.V. intervened in the case before the ECHA Board of Appeal. Now, Symrise has taken the decision to the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the Science Consortium has once again been accepted as an intervener in this precedent-setting case.
PETA is delighted that the policy of the European Commission and ECHA – which has undermined the EU animal test and marketing bans for cosmetics by requiring cosmetics ingredients to be tested on animals – is being challenged.
Shamefully, the animal tests requested for these two ingredients are just the tip of the iceberg. But PETA applauds Symrise for bringing this case before the court.
5,500 Rats, Rabbits, and Fish Sentenced to Death for Sunscreen
Two decisions recently published by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) Board of Appeal ruled that ingredients used solely in cosmetics can be tested on animals under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation. Tests on animals for cosmetics ingredients have been banned in the EU since 2013 under the Cosmetics Regulation, but these decisions – a gross misinterpretation of the law – will effectively allow manufacturers and regulatory authorities to ignore the ban.
Here’s what happened, what it will mean for animals, and what can be done to help them.
Who Will Suffer?
As a direct result of these decisions, more than 5,500 rats, rabbits, and fish are required to be used in new tests, some of whom will be force-fed a cosmetics ingredient throughout pregnancy before they and their unborn offspring are killed and dissected.
These decisions also open the door to more testing on animals under REACH. Hundreds of cosmetics products each year contain ingredients that are new to the market, which may require future testing under REACH at the cost of thousands more animals’ lives.
What Are the Ingredients?
The cosmetics ingredients at the centre of the appeal – 2-ethylhexyl salicylate and homosalate – are used in sunscreens and other cosmetics to absorb ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun.
Many manufacturers and brands are likely to be affected by these decisions, so it’s vital that consumers use the PETA US searchable, online, and global “Beauty Without Bunnies” database of companies that refuse to allow their products to be tested on animals anywhere in the world for any reason.
Companies certified as animal test–free by PETA US do not conduct or commission any animal tests on ingredients, formulations, or finished products and pledge not to do so in the future.
Do These Ingredients Really Need to Be Tested on Animals?
ECHA argues that the tests are needed to demonstrate safety for workers who manufacture or handle the substance, but testing these cosmetics ingredients on thousands of animals won’t help protect workers. Fundamental biological differences between humans and other animals mean the results of tests on animals just don’t reliably predict what will happen in humans.
Isn’t Cosmetics Testing Banned in Europe?
Since 2013, tests on animals for cosmetics ingredients have been banned in the EU under the Cosmetics Regulation. The Court of Justice of the European Union further clarified in 2016 that the sale of cosmetics products that rely on the results of newly generated animal tests for safety-assessment purposes is banned within the EU. Yet ECHA, the European Commission, and now the ECHA Board of Appeal have misinterpreted the law and undermined the bans, putting animals back in laboratories for pointless and cruel cosmetics tests.
The Cosmetics Regulation is of huge political significance and reflects the will of the public and the European Parliament. The monumental bans on testing cosmetics on animals and selling cosmetics that rely on animal test data in the EU demonstrate that people value the life of an animal over a tube of toothpaste or sunscreen.
Allowing tests on animals under REACH for ingredients used in cosmetics effectively ignores the Cosmetics Regulation and completely undermines the purpose of those bans.
It’s easy: only non-animal methods should be relied upon to bring a cosmetics product to market. If that’s not possible, the ingredient should not be used.
What Is PETA Doing About It?
In 2014, we revealed that ECHA and the European Commission were allowing cosmetics ingredients to be tested on animals. We have since been working to stop these abhorrent tests by putting pressure on the European Commission and ECHA to respect the cosmetics regulation and its animal testing bans.
PETA International Science Consortium e. V. – of which PETA UK is a member – intervened in the appeal case concerning these recent testing decisions. Although the Board of Appeal rejected many of the arguments put forward by the Science Consortium and the company responsible for appealing the testing decisions, PETA and the Science Consortium are exploring all options to resolve the issue.
PETA entities urge companies to do their part by using humane, non-animal testing methods and to help fund the development of such methods. We also encourage companies to use ingredients that are known to be safe or to reformulate a product to eliminate any cosmetics ingredients tested on animals under REACH. Being animal test–free is an option for every company.
Although these decisions are a huge setback, we are more determined than ever to stop all cosmetics tests on animals.
What Can You Do to Help?
Always use cruelty-free products, and check PETA US’ database when in doubt.
Please help us demonstrate the power of public opposition to testing cosmetics on animals: urge the European Commission and ECHA to respect the Cosmetics Regulation and ban tests on animals for cosmetics ingredients, no matter the circumstances: