Why Cruelty-Free Is Still Relevant

Jonathan Jones 15/03/2021 3 minute read

Why do animal-friendly cosmetic brands continue to publicise their ‘not-tested on animals’ credentials and seek cruelty-free accreditation, despite the fact that in 2013 the EU imposed a ban on testing purely for cosmetic purposes?

EU Ban In Place

For the last seven years, no cosmetic ingredients or products can be used in the EU if they have been tested on animals anywhere in the world to meet the requirements of the EU Cosmetic Products Regulation. In the UK testing of cosmetic products on animals was effectively banned in 1997, long before the EU ruling, as a result of a voluntary initiative by the industry.

A statement issued by Caroline Rainsford, Head of Scientific and Environmental Services at the CTPA, the UK-based trade body that was at the forefront of the work to ban animal testing for purely cosmetic purposes in the EU, pays tribute to the industry’s achievements:

“The cosmetics industry has had a dedicated strategy for replacing animal testing for over 25 years, investing millions of pounds to develop alternative test methods which assess safety from a fresh, modern perspective. These test methods are available for all industries to use, to speed up the reduction in animal tests for all purposes.

“This progress will not be lost when the UK leaves the EU – the new UK cosmetics legislation will maintain the same commitment to animal welfare by keeping the strict bans on animal testing of cosmetic ingredients and products.”

According to the CTPA, the cosmetics industry is now working towards the ultimate aim of a global phase-out of animal testing as some authorities around the world still require animal data.

Worldwide Ban Required To End Confusion

And this is where the uncertainty from an EU citizen’s perspective begins to arise, as it is inevitable that the resulting finished products will be available internationally through various sales channels.

More pertinently, perhaps, the EU regulation REACH (Regulation, Evaluation, Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals), over which the cosmetic industry has no jurisdiction, does indeed require some ingredients used in cosmetic products to be tested on animals, if these ingredients are also used in other product types.

The situation is further confused by the fact that although the promotion of alternative methods to animal testing is among the objectives of the REACH Regulation, it also states that even if an ingredient is exclusively intended for cosmetic use, in order to protect people working in manufacturing who handle substances in higher concentrations and with more frequency than consumers using a finished product, as a last resort testing on animals may in certain specific incidences still be required.

A final discombobulation for the consumer is that some EU based brands allow their products to be tested on animals in order to enter overseas territories where animal testing is mandatory. A willingness to compromise standards in this area for commercial reasons has often caused a consumer backlash for brands in their domestic markets.

More importantly, though, it has the potential to undermine consumer confidence in the whole industry.

EU cosmetic regulators and authorities have done all in their power to ban animal testing, while ensuring through stringent scientific tests the continued safety of products. They should be loudly applauded for this work.

However, until a total worldwide ban is imposed and further alternatives to animal testing are developed and sanctioned for use in all other sectors, then there will remain the need for brands to clearly communicate their commitment to animal welfare through product labelling and symbols.

Brands on this site accredited to use Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny symbol on their products include Gaia, Kear and The PURE Collection.

Image: Science in HD on Unsplash

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