Animal Testing – cosmetics and household products
Being vegan not only means cutting out animal products and derivatives from what we eat, but it also affects the choices we make when buying make-up, bodycare and household products.
In a massively significant move, it has been illegal to test cosmetics (and their ingredients) in the EU since the 11th of March 2009. The legislative act also established a prohibition on the sale of products tested on animals elsewhere in the world in the European Community from 2013 (to ensure testing is not relocated to third countries). However, there will remain on the market products that have been previously tested on animals before the EU ban and sadly despite a ban on animal testing for household products in 2010, it is still permitted on their ingredients.
Just because a product is vegan does not guarantee that it has never been tested on animals. In addition to this there are various animal testing policies that a company may adopt. We prefer to support only companies with a fixed cut-off date (FCOD). If a product has ‘not tested on animals’ on the label be aware that this may refer to the final product and not necessarily the ingredients.
Fixed Cut-Off Date
Companies adopting this policy will not use ingredients, or procure from suppliers ingredients that have been tested on animals since a specific date. They also do not test their finished products on animals.
Humane Cosmetics/Household Products Standard
Launched by a coalition of animal protection groups including the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (now known as Cruelty Free International), this standard is the world’s only internationally recognised scheme which uses a leaping bunny logo to allow consumers to easily identify products that have been made cruelty free.
To receive approval to use the logo, not only must the company no longer conduct or commission animal testing, they must also adopt a fixed cut-off date (which must never be moved) for ingredients and products. In addition to this they must also agree to an independent audit of its supply chain to ensure compliance with all of the above.
Cruelty Free International endorses a fixed cut-off date policy because they believe it will eventually reduce the need for animal testing and eliminate it from household products industries.
Five Year Rolling Rule
Companies using this policy will not use ingredients that have been tested with a five year period. However as this is a ‘rolling’ rule something which was tested say in 2003 will not be permitted for use during the five year period to 2008, but may then be introduced in 2009. This policy does nothing to discourage animal testing and may also deter the development of alternative research methods.
Another issue to be aware of is who actually owns the brand you are buying. The Body Shop, a company which made its name through opposing animal testing was owned by L’Oreal between 2006 and 2017. L’Oreal was still continuing to test new ingredients on animals prior to the March 2009 EU deadline (although the testing of new ingredients was in fact required by law, there were already thousands of ingredients proven to be safe for use. The result undoubtedly being more unnecessary suffering just to produce the latest ‘must have’ beauty product).
In this case, some vegans would choose to boycott The Body Shop since any money spent there would ultimately line the pockets of L’Oreal. The other argument is that The Body Shop maintained they would sustain the values and beliefs at the core of their business (i.e. remain cruelty-free) and perhaps they may even have influenced their parent company.
Unfortunately, this dilemma is a common occurrence with as many large companies dominating the cosmetics market have picked up on the growing ethical and environmental concerns of today’s consumers. They either acquire or create brands which are associated with nature or have a no animal testing policy.
Whilst it is now illegal for these companies to continue such practices, products that had been created in this way will still remain on the shelves so whilst the change in law is the best thing that could have happened, in reality we do not have as much freedom with shopping and choices as someone for whom these issues are not a factor. So again, some investigation is required either contact brands yourself or use one of the many lists that are available citing cruelty-free companies.
Previously cruelty-free companies have faced backlash when announcing they intend to operate in China (in some cases to the extent they decide to back out of plans). This is because animal testing is compulsory in China on all products manufactured outside the country. Whilst this is not conducted by the companies themselves but by Chinese authorities it ultimately means a cruelty-free claim can no longer be made.
L’Occitane had their Cruelty Free International accreditation revoked when they decided to sell their products in China but claim they are actively working with relevant authorities to end animal testing. They believe being within China they are in the best position to influence regulation.
Yes, this makes shopping a moving target, unless you are paying close attention to the business decisions of your favourite cruelty-free brand, they could move to condoning animal testing overnight.