Opinion - Cosmetics and Animal Testing

Cosmetics and Animal Testing
I had this blog post in draft for some time and then thanks to Jessica and Morag I learnt that this week is the Humane Society International #BeCrueltyFree awareness week so it seemed like an appropriate time to hit publish.

Nine times out of ten the companies I work with and buy from do not object to questions being asked about their Animal Testing policy. Recently when I posed the question I received the simple response “Animal Testing is banned in Europe”. It left me feeling a little deflated, that simple answer was not enough to satisfy me. Yes, Cosmetic Animal Testing was banned in the EU in March 2013 but I still want to ask questions because there is a piece of legislation called REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of Chemicals) which needs taking into consideration. The animal testing ban only applies to cosmetics/skincare therefore an ingredient that is used to create other types of products may still be tested under REACH. I notice that even Lush have admitted in their policy that REACH could affect their suppliers

"As mentioned above our suppliers must not be involved in or commission animal testing for any reason, and any materials they supply to LUSH must only buy from other suppliers/manufacturers who are NOT involved in the use of, or commission of, animal testing, for any reason. However due to the introduction of REACH we had to make an unavoidable exception to our policy: If a supplier gets involved in animal testing due to the unavoidable requirements of meeting the requirements of REACH legislation, we have to ‘accept’ this." Lush Website 

Another “loophole” relates to global markets. Countries outside of the EU may have regulations in place that require animal testing. If an EU company sells to these countries they have to abide by those regulations so whilst the batch of products sitting on the shelf in a UK supermarket can never be tested, the shipment sent overseas will be. You may already be aware that China is a hotly debated topic. In June 2014, China did make a small step in changing regulations, "ordinary" cosmetics produced and sold in China no longer require testing but that does not apply to foreign products (Further reading: HSI Press Release). 

I believe it is often larger companies that you have to keep your eye on. In my opinion, buying from smaller, natural and organic companies generally means they are not conducting testing because they are not selling outside of the EU and are less likely to be funded by a multinational parent company. Smaller brands often have a better ethos when it comes to the environment and being cruelty free is part of the bigger picture. REN recently announced it has been sold to Unilever, a company which has questionable environmental ethos and animal testing policies. Avoiding parent companies is a personal decision but some people view it as funding animal testing despite the ethos of the brand you may be ultimately purchasing from e.g The Body Shop/L'Oreal, Burt Bees/Clorox, Melvita/L'Occitane Group.

You do have to be aware of certain wording on labels because we often make assumptions about their meanings. I would always ask questions if you are unsure but I would suggest the rule of thumb is as follows: 
  • Cruelty-free: ingredients and final product are not tested on animals. 
  • Not tested on animals: final product is not tested on animals. 
  • Vegetarian or Vegan: product does not contain ingredients resulting from animal slaughter nor is it tested on animals. (watch out for companies who refer to products as suitable for Vegetarians but they contain lanolin and carmine) 
  • Against Animal Testing: In my opinion, this has to be the most non-committed statement a brand can place on products. It says to me “we don’t like animal testing but we won’t make any guarantees about our products/ingredients” 
The above trademarks from the Vegan Society, Vegetarian Society, The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics’ (CCIC) Leaping Bunny Program, PETA, CCF (Choose Cruelty Free), can provide a level of reassurance to consumers. It is worth checking out these organisations and making sure you are happy with their terms for obtaining trademarks because they are not all equal (many regard the Leaping Bunny as most trusted certification). If you wish to verify a company's certification you are best off directly contacting the organisation that issues it. When it comes to bunny logos, I would question credibility of any designs that are different to the ones above. There are fakes symbols, used to a companies advantage because bunnies have often been the associated symbol with animal rights and cruelty free. Of course not every company is able to afford certification, it doesn't make their products any less creditable it just means you may need to ask questions to reassure yourself before buying from them. Ask where they sell products (e.g EU or global markets), if their products and/or ingredients are subject to testing by 3rd parties and it's also worth checking if they have a parent company. Also watch out for animal derived ingredients, be clear in your mind whether you are happy with lanolin, carmine, silk, keratin, shellac, emu oil, bee venom etc. 

If you use Twitter, there is a cruelty free blogger network with a weekly chat on Thursdays 9-10pm (GMT). Use #cfblogger to get your tweets noticed and if you have any questions.