Animal Testing in the Beauty Industry

Just how difficult is going totally 'Cruelty Free'?

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Image courtesy of Tony Webster via Flickr

In March 2013, the EU passed new legislation which banned the sale of all cosmetic products tested on animals in the EU, regardless of where in the world the test took place. Companies renowned for their animal cruelty practices were forced to revaluate their production methods and transition to a financially viable system without testing on animals.

Now, many brands pride themselves on their status as cruelty free and it forms an integral part of their ethical policy and brand image. Brands, such as Lush, The Body Shop and Illamasqua all take a firm stance against animal testing and it has proven popular with consumers. Even in the USA, makeup brands, such as M·A·C and Nars have ceased animal testing on their products, showing an increase in awareness of the public’s demands.

However, a recent spike in social media posts calling out companies which continue to test on animals has thrown certain makeup brands into the spotlight, as questions surface about the legitimacy of their cruelty free image.

The issue arises when brands decide to sell in the Chinese market, which demands all beauty products must undergo a hygiene test before going on sale. These tests force animals to undergo extreme suffering: they are force-fed products, have their eyes and ears smeared with makeup and are doused in perfumes, all in an inefficient and misguided attempt to ensure they are safe for human use. This practice has been proven time and time again to be of little use, as more efficient, ethical and trustworthy tests which do not involve animals are available worldwide.

M·A·C claims to be cruelty free on its website with this statement. “M·A·C does not test on animals. We do not own any animal testing facilities and we never ask others to test on animals for us. While some governments conduct animal testing to prove safety before they will allow us to sell our products, M·A·C has never tested on animals and we continue to be a leader in the movement to end animal testing globally”. Though M·A·C claims to be a leader in ending animal testing, its decision to sell products in China and allow the Chinese government to test their products on animals paints a different picture.

As it’s the season for New Year’s Resolutions, many cosmetics fans have taken it upon themselves to start the year 100% cruelty free. Of course, in the EU we are lucky enough to have laws restricting the production, manufacture and trade of any cosmetics tested on animals. Luckily, this will be translated into UK law after Brexit. When we travel abroad, the obvious solution is to read the label; often the product will state that it is not tested on animals. However, even using product labels as a guide can often be misleading. In the U.S, there are no legal definitions for the terms ‘Cruelty Free’ or ‘Not Tested on Animals’ and this is where confusion arises. The U.S Department of Health and Human Services states “Some companies may apply such claims [‘Cruelty Free’, or ‘Not Tested on Animals’] solely to their finished cosmetic products. However, these companies may rely on raw material suppliers or contract laboratories to perform any animal testing necessary to substantiate product or ingredient safety.”

The only way to know for certain is to do your research. Beauty blogs, forums, activist groups and YouTubers all provide a wealth of information for those out there looking for a cruelty free beauty regime in 2018.

As for the financial viability for companies wishing to become cruelty free, the proof is in the pudding. Lush launched in 1995 with a strict policy against animal testing. The company is now one of the most successful cosmetics companies on the high street. Lush have stated:

“We have built Lush from day one using this policy – and we believe this shows that it is possible to invent, manufacture and bring to the market an entire range of products without any involvement in animal testing. Our founders launched this policy in June 1993, whilst still running their previous company, Cosmetics To Go. So when they started Lush in 1995, it began life using this policy and has stuck to it ever since.”