The ugly side of beauty

Image courtesy of PETA

Image courtesy of PETA

The cruelty free movement against animal testing has been around for decades. So, when the EU finally banned animal testing for cosmetics in 2013, animal right activists from around the world exhaled a huge sigh of relief. However research from Cruelty Free International states that each year there are still 115 million animals being used for experiments worldwide. Emma Hull explores the origins of animal testing, why it can’t be justified what we can do to make a difference.

Right now, millions of rabbits, cats, dogs and other innocent animals around the world are being forced into a laboratory and subjected to harmful testing. Experimented on for drugs and cosmetics, the animals are used to establish whether ingredients are safe for the public before putting it on the market. To put a stop to this injustice, animal rights organisations are educating and encouraging consumers to make a stand and support cosmetic brands that are cruelty free.

As animal testing becomes a wider consumer concern and more governments implement bans, cosmetic companies are adapting. In 2013, the European Union became one of the first regions in the world to implement a sales ban on animal tested cosmetics and in 2014 India, and Israel followed suit in banning animal testing. The EU legislation states that it is illegal to sell or market cosmetic products within the EU if animal testing has taken place on the finished product. But whilst the ban is certainly a step in the right direction, there unfortunately are loopholes that make the global market more problematic – not only for companies but also consumers.

The ban ensures that companies cannot sell animal tested cosmetics within the EU, however outside of the EU the same company is permitted to test on animals if they want to sell to other markets. What this means is that your favourite cosmetics purchased within the EU will not have been tested on animals, but you may still be indirectly supporting a company that tests on animals in other areas of the world.

Take China for example, a large emerging market that demands all cosmetics to be tested on animals if they want it to be imported and sold in the country. So if a brand claims to be cruelty free in the EU, but supplies to China, they are still profiting from cruelty to animals.

But it’s not just China that has proved problematic. Animal testing in the US has also been a practice since the 1920s. US cosmetics are regulated under the Food, Drug & Cosmetics Act that prohibits the use of ingredients that may be unsafe in a cosmetic product. Because of this animals have been subjected to all kinds of painful and harmful tests for cosmetic products.

But what animals are being subjected to these types of tests? Well according to Humane Society, the United States largest animal protection organisation, guinea pigs, mice and rats are the most used animals in cosmetic testing outside of the EU. Its 2013 study shows that 67,772 dogs were also used within medical research for cardiology and bone studies. Cats too are often used for neurological studies, with 24,221 cats harmed in the process. For the sale of lipsticks, foundations and other forms of cosmetics in the beauty isles, animals are forced to eat or inhale toxic substances and have cosmetics rubbed onto their shaved skin, eyes or ears to see if they have an allergic reaction. They are even killed to examine the effects the ingredients have had on their internal organs according to animal rights organisation, Cruelty Free International.

But it is the 21st century and this cruelty to animals should be put to a stop, especially for the purposes of vanity. It is certainly unjust, but is it necessary? According to Christina Bicknell, college co-ordinator at PETA she says it doesn’t need to be this way. She tells me: “In the U.S., there are no laws that require these types of products should be tested on animals. Companies can choose not to sell their products in countries such as China, where tests on animals are required for cosmetics and other products.”

There are also many alternatives available for companies to create new and safe beauty products in a cruelty free way. According to the Humane Society there are over 7,000 ingredients that brands can choose from that have not been tested on animals and are classed as safe for the public. Technological advances are also paving the way with in-vitro testing which utilises human skin cells, computer models and even the replication of human organs, which could spare the life of millions of animals.

Beauty products that state they are cruelty free mean they have been developed by methods that have not involved the cruelty of animals. First coined by Lady Dowding the ‘cruelty free’ term was introduced when she encouraged faux fur manufacturers to use the label ‘Beauty Without Cruelty’. By the 1970s the term was popularised in the US by Marcia Pearson, founded the group Fashion with Compassion.

Since there is no regulation of the term ‘cruelty free’, it makes it easy for brands to claim this status when they are still conducting animal testing for other markets. For example, Benefit Cosmetics claims on their FAQ page that they do not test on animals. It also states that it is “playing a leading role in developing alternative methods through our support of the Fund for Alternatives to Animal Testing in the United States”.

Naturally, this would lead consumers to think Benefit is cruelty free, however on further investigation we found that within its terms and conditions it will test on animals when required by law, particularly when they import to China. This is a perfect example of how consumers can become confused by the misconceptions and false claims from brands. Unfortunately profit matters over ethics for some brands, so it is important to understand which ones you can trust!

So where should you begin? Christina suggests that when you are shopping, start by looking for the PETA or leaping bunny logo. “Products proudly displaying these logo are cruelty-free, meaning that they were produced without testing on animals and will not test for other markets.” Products that display the PETA logo have signed PETA’s statement of assurance that they do not conduct or commission animal tests on ingredients, formulations or finished products, and pledge to not do so in the future. The leaping bunny logo is another certification you can look out for. Led by eight national animal protection organisations, “The Leaping Bunny Logo is currently the only internationally recognised symbol guaranteeing consumers that no new animal tests were used in the development of any product displaying it,” says Bicknell.

Making the switch can be overwhelming so it is important to take things slow. Suzi Sheler, blogger and founder of Cruelty Free Kitty suggests assessing your stash and research whether they are found on Leaping Bunny Cruelty Free List. “If they are not, don’t throw anything away, that is wasteful,” suggests Suzi. “Simply use up your products and make more conscious decisions on future purchases.” And as for your favourite products, try and find a cruelty free alternative.

Customers dictate the market. By boycotting the brands that tests on animals and paying close attention to which brands you are purchasing and supporting you can make a difference and help protect animal welfare across the globe. “You can make the decision of going cruelty-free right here, right now,” says Suzi. “All you have to do is make better choices on future purchases and stop repurchasing products that are tested on animals. It might not be easy, but it’s well worth it.”

You can sign the petition to Pass the Humane Cosmetics Act in the US here.

Originally published on PURE.