“I had no idea cosmetics were still tested on animals” – in all the years I’ve been campaigning to end animal testing, that’s got to be the most commonly heard refrain from consumers. In fact I hear it more now than in years past. Such a lack of awareness used to frustrate me. Hadn’t people heard of the cruelty-free campaign? But now I think maybe it’s evolved because of, not despite, the success of cruelty-free campaigning. In some ways we’ve become a victim of our own success.
Cruelty-free cosmetics are so widely available and so prominently promoted, it can be easy for consumers to be under the misguided impression that animal testing is a thing of the past. The ugly truth is that animals are still suffering for the beauty industry, but could it be that it’s not just the average person on the street who needs reminding? Do vegans like me also need a bit of a nudge?
Like other vegans, I take care to ensure that the products I buy don’t contain animal ingredients and haven’t been tested on animals. I buy products that are approved by the international Leaping Bunny scheme to guarantee that no animal testing has taken place on finished products or their ingredients at any stage. I’ve been vegan for years now, so I know exactly what products I can and cannot buy. The problem is, so confident am I in my purchasing choices, there’s a danger my vegan consumerism has become a little mechanical and I wonder if I’m not the only one.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my little vegan bubble. I value beyond measure feeling one step removed from the hideous cruelty behind animal testing, the meat and dairy industry, the fur and leather industry. My world can feel like a very comforting sanctuary. But is there a danger that comfort has turned into complacency? Is it possible that in our bubble we can forget the shocking reality behind the products that we routinely choose to leave on the shelf? Can we vegans – of all people – forget to be angry and to do something about it?
If that’s the case, Humane Society International/UK’s Cruelty-Free 2013 campaign comes as a timely reminder that as compassionate shoppers, we still have unfinished business with cosmetics animal testing. Although animal testing is banned in the European Union, it still continues in countries such as the United States, China and Brazil where animals can endure being forced to swallow cosmetic chemicals or have them dripped into their eyes. These products can then be sold in EU shops despite having been tested using methods that EU politicians have deemed too cruel to be permitted in EU labs.
So what’s the solution? In fact the solution was agreed in law 18 years ago – a Europe-wide ban on the sale of animal-tested cosmetics that would come into force in 1998. The EU is the world’s largest cosmetics market so by making it a cruelty-free zone, companies across the globe would be forced to either stop animal testing or miss out on lucrative sales. The problem is the ban has never been implemented, in fact it’s been pushed back three times and now that it’s due to come into effect in 2013, a fourth postponement is on the cards.
Humane Society International and others are busy lobbying politicians in Brussels to save the ban. But policy makers need to hear a clear message from consumers too that we’ve waited long enough for an end to the suffering. Signing HSI’s Cruelty-Free 2013 petition is a quick and easy way to make your voice heard, and I urge you to do so today. It may seem like a small gesture, but it’s certainly not a pointless one. Animals suffering in laboratories can’t speak up for themselves, but we can be their voice and take their message to Brussels. So please do one simple but effective thing for animals today, sign HSI’s Cruelty-Free 2013 petition and give voice to an animal in a laboratory.
Wendy Higgins is a consultant Communications Specialist for animal protection organisations such as Humane Society International and Four Paws.
For more information visit http://www.hsi.org/issues/cruelty_free_shopping/