Industry cannot win on the question of animal testing

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Animal testing, European union

In 2011 the cosmetics industry will find itself between a rock and a hard place when it comes to phasing out animal testing, a process that has been underway for many years.

Although nothing has been officially announced, according to UK newspaper The Guardian, it will not be long before the European Commission announces that a complete ban on animal testing cannot be implemented in the time frame originally proposed.

Since 2009, using animals to test cosmetics ingredients in the European Union has been banned. In addition, a marketing ban has been introduced, which bans the sale of products containing ingredients tested on animals elsewhere.

However, this marketing ban was introduced in a staggered fashion, depending on what the test was designed to find out, with some falling under a 2009 deadline and some a 2013 limit. And, this is where the complication arises.

Some of these tests have proved more complicated than others to replace with non-animal alternatives, and last summer the European Commission published a document highlighting that replacements for many of the tests set for a 2013 ban were not yet available.

At the time the European Commission was heavily criticised by animal rights bodies for taking ‘too scientific’ a stance, and not recognising the moral implications of continuing to use animals – thoughts that have been echoed in recent media coverage.

However, last year also saw intensified pressure on the industry for ‘safe’ cosmetics from consumers and interest groups.

The Story of Cosmetics, a video documentary by Annie Leonard supported by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics fuelled consumer fears about ingredients that may prove toxic, carcinogenic or hormone disrupting.

If deemed necessary, and the level of consumer fear and action from interest groups suggest that this will increasingly be the case, such ingredients may be required to undergo further testing, to be sure that they pose no risk to consumers.

However, if a ban is enforced on animal testing, proving the safety of ingredients may not be possible.

This leaves the industry in a very tricky position. Consumers and interest groups demand ingredients that are safe, and regulation that will investigate not just new ingredients before they go to market, but re-investigate old ones if enough concern is voiced.

However, they also demand cruelty-free cosmetics that have not been tested on animals.

Reconciling these demands is going to be very challenging for the industry while alternatives are not yet up to speed.

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@ Trudy (2)

Posted by Marie Alice,

I agree with Fred's comment below, you are making the mistake of forgetting the safety testing necessary to put RAW MATERIALS on market. If Avon can make a cream and then NOT test it on animals, it is because all of these raws have been tested for acute oral toxicity for instance. And so, the need for the same test for a blend of ingredients that are themselves considered as safe in not nearly as high. But if acute oral toxicity can no longer be performed by raw materials suppliers, it will be difficult for the industry to use those in formulas or to not test these formulas for acute toxicity. How would you feel, having at home a jug of shampoo not knowing whether the ingredients constituting it are safe to ingest (or at least not lethal) and whether or not you can leave your kid alone in the bathroom. Do you want to have to hide this, the same you hide (I hope) the Draino or the medications that you have?

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Posted by Fred Burmeister,

I agree that there are alternative test protocols as well as human clinical test methods to determine cosmetic product safety and that the industry leaders such as Avon and the others you mentioned have taken a strong anti-animal testing stance. Those companies should be applauded for their efforts and leadership in this area.

However, you should read this commentary more thoroughly. The issue is not with companies doing animal testing but with a specific regulating body (EC) that has found sufficient problems in the current regulations to DELAY implementation of a complete ban until further study verifies that this is the proper and prudent path to take...its a scientific approach and not a LAME excuse.

Further, I cannot agree with your "solution."

The use of prison populations has been used, and if I recall, by none other than the great Dr. Al Kligman, not for safety but for efficacy tests. I believe he found that there are both ethical and practical problems with using prisoners that mitigate against this practice.

As for safety testing of of products and ingredients on "death row inmates," your "solution" sounds much like the "final solution" attempted some 60 years ago. Perhaps these miscreants should be restrained and subjected to Draize studies or gavaged and have LD50's performed?

I think not. Cruelty is cruelty no matter what the species.

LD50 and the Draize skin and eye studies are cruel and must be stopped for all cosmetic product safety tests. There is no debate on that issue. Your "solution" takes the debate to an altogether inappropriate level.

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animal testing

Posted by Trudy Rule,

Avon, an international company is the leader in no animal testing since 1978 so don't tell me it's not possible. It is possible. Revlon, Mac etc. (do the research) have also stepped up and do not test on animals. Lame excuses and there will always be lame excuses.
My solution. Our prisons are full of candidates that should be used for testing. I'm talking death row inmates folks, lets use our heads.
Animals don't even respond to the same things that people do. Again use your heads.

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