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, global “Beauty Without Bunnies” database of companies that refuse to allow tests 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 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.
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. – 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 and its affiliates 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: