Cosmetics and Animal Testing

Cosmetics productsThere’s no excuse for hurting and killing animals for the sake of make-up, soap and other toiletries. Fortunately, experiments on animals for cosmetics products and their ingredients have been consigned to the history books in many parts of the world. Instead, companies have developed new, humane testing methods to ensure that their products don’t harm humans or animals.

A Historic Victory in the European Union

In March 2013, a new European Union (EU) law was fully implemented that made it illegal to sell animal-tested cosmetics in Europe, even if the testing was done outside Europe – a spectacular achievement. This sales ban made it clear that animal testing is wrong and – further – that profiting from this is immoral. Executives from cosmetics companies around the world now know that if they want to sell their products to the EU’s 500 million consumers, they need to take a hard look at their policies. The result has been a boom in investment in non-animal testing methods. Major companies have turned their backs completely on animal testing and no longer use ingredients that were tested on animals – and a number of animal tests have been completely replaced with superior, cheaper and more effective non-animal methods.

The 2013 ban was the culmination of a vigorous and long-standing public campaign against animal-tested cosmetics – not just for finished products but also for their ingredients, which was critical. It closed the final loophole: in 2009, these abhorrent tests were banned in Europe, but products tested elsewhere could still be imported.

The EU’s landmark decision has had repercussions around the world, with Israel and India following suit and introducing similar legislation.

The Global Market

The implementation of the full sales ban in March was fantastic news, but in some ways, the global market makes the situation tricky not only for companies but also consumers.

Although companies can’t sell animal-tested cosmetics in Europe, they can continue to test cosmetics on animals outside Europe and sell them in other markets. Therefore, companies can still profit from cruelty to animals – just not in Europe. This is particularly important because many large emerging markets, such as China, are demanding that cosmetics be tested on animals. Because of this, the only way to be completely sure that you aren’t indirectly supporting animal testing is to continue to purchase products only from companies that don’t test on animals. Check out our page on making cruelty-free choices for more information.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Despite the remarkable progress that’s been made, ingredients used in cosmetics may still be tested on animals in the EU under REACH, the world’s largest chemical testing programme. Regardless of the clear mandate from the public and international governments on this issue, the European Commission (EC) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) are insisting on testing the chemicals used in cosmetics for which there’s a possibility of workforce exposure during manufacturing processes. This means that animals will, in fact, continue to suffer and die in tests for cosmetics ingredients.

PETA and its affiliates are determined to uphold the public’s opposition to cosmetics testing and support the advancement of innovative, humane testing methods by pushing the ECHA to fulfil the spirit of the law by never testing cosmetics ingredients on animals – no matter what the circumstances are. You can urge the EC and ECHA to uphold the ethical and moral values enshrined in the Cosmetics Regulation by signing our action alert.

Household Product Testing

Following the ban on animal-tested cosmetics in Europe, ending animal tests for household products is the next logical step – and would save countless lives. There are thousands of ingredients that have already been proved safe for use in household products as well as an increasing number of alternative testing methods for new ingredients that don’t use animals and are more reliable.

Yet across Europe, hundreds of animals, such as rats, mice, rabbits and guinea pigs, are used in toxicity (or “poison”) tests for chemicals used in household products. In these tests, chemicals are applied to or injected into animals’ skin or forced down their throats via a tube to check for side effects such as vomiting, tremors, organ failure, paralysis and even death. PETA is urging the UK government to end these animals’ suffering by banning all animal-testing for household products and their ingredients.

Gillette testing rabbit eye experiment

Pioneering Alternative Testing Methods

In addition to campaigning for the worldwide ban of animal-tested cosmetics, raising awareness of the cruelty that goes on in laboratories and putting pressure on governments and politicians to introduce compassionate legislation, PETA and its affiliates are also helping to develop non-animal testing methods that’ll encourage companies to phase out horrific experiments on animals. For example, PETA UK and PETA Germany have funded the validation of a new effective and humane skin sensitisation test that would replace painful tests on mice and guinea pigs.

PETA US have also funded expert scientists at the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS) to work with Chinese scientists and government officials in order to educate and train them on the use of non-animal methods.

“PETA has been at the technical forefront of the animal protection community in its campaign to replace animal methods with in vitro methods in regulatory toxicity testing. Importantly, they have backed up their activities with real dollars to support the development of nonanimal methods.”

 —Dr. Rodger Curren, President, Institute for In Vitro Sciences

What You Can Do

  • Shop cruelty-free by choosing products from companies who refuse to conduct tests on animals anywhere in the world. Consult PETA US’ cruelty-free companies list before you buy.
  • Visit our action centre to get involved in PETA’s campaigns against the cruel vivisection industry.