I thought this issue had gone away. But it seems to be back, with newspaper headlines and articles on radio programmes. The headlines are very alarming. Animal tests for makeup resume after 25-year ban says the BBC. The Express manages to give it a Brexit angle – UK to resume animal testing for makeup ingredients ‘to align with EU rules‘. What’s going on?
First a bit of background.
Animal Testing On Cosmetics Regulations In Europe
The European Union has introduced a series of Cosmetics Directive, which aim to regulate the cosmetics industry and improve consumer safety. As part of this a ban on animal testing for cosmetics was established.
The ban prohibited the use of animals for testing cosmetics products or their ingredients within the EU. It also banned the sale of cosmetics products that had been tested on animals outside the EU.
The ban was phased in over several years, with a complete ban on animal testing for cosmetics taking effect in 2013. The ban applies to all cosmetics products, including those imported from outside the EU. The decision to ban animal testing for cosmetics in the EU was influenced by public concern for animal welfare. The UK was the most persistent in pressing this, but Belgium and Austria were also quite active.
There was no enthusiasm for animal testing in the cosmetic industry, which had always simply complied with regulations requiring such testing. Cosmetic scientists didn’t need the data, and their employers didn’t much like paying for it. It was in any case a tiny proportion of the animal testing that was carried out. Nobody in the business wants it back. And the cosmetic regulations that ban it remain in force.
I can’t prove this, but I am pretty confident that there has been no animal testing carried out on cosmetic ingredients in the UK since the early 1980s.
So why is it back in the news?
Non-Cosmetic Animal Testing
While testing materials for the purposes of cosmetic development remains both unecessary and unlawful, there is still a need to ensure that chemicals are safe. This is important to workers handling them as part of their jobs – like me for example. And it is also necessary to ensure they don’t pose a risk to the environment. The regulations that cover this are known as REACH. They don’t mandate animal testing, but they don’t prohibit it either. There are not many chemicals that are manufactured solely for use in cosmetics, and most have widespread uses.
If you want to ensure something is safe you need to consider quite a wide range of factors and data. This might include animal data. REACH is structured to minimise the amount of testing. Once it has been submitted it can be shared by other companies so the same work doesn’t get done more than once. And it allows data generation to be waived in the case of similar materials. And alternatives to animal testing are permitted if they can be justified.
So animal testing is not carried out for cosmetic purposes, and is minimised under REACH for non-cosmetic purposes. But what about materials that are made solely for use as cosmetic ingredients? There aren’t many of these. I couldn’t think of any apart from a couple of sunscreen agents and some speciality polymers. Does the ban on cosmetic testing mean that occupational exposure data and environmental impact data for these materials are also banned?
Court Ruling on Cosmetic Testing
The question of whether the ban on animal testing would make it impossible to establish safe handling for cosmetic ingredients was raised early on and it was ruled that such testing would be permissible. I think it was a bit theoretical as I’m not aware that any actual programmes were underway or planned that would be affected by it at the time.
Why Is Animal Testing On Cosmetics Being Talked About?
The reason it is in the news is that Cruelty Free International asked for a judicial review of the status of the cosmetic ban in relation to the REACH regulation. CFI are the company behind the Leaping Bunny logo, and were asserting that REACH overrode the cosmetic animal testing ban.
The court rejected this, leaving the law as it has stood since the 1990s. Cosmetic products and ingredients cannot be tested for the purposes of cosmetic use. They can be, if necessary, tested to make sure they are safe to be handled and to ensure they don’t harm the environment. This isn’t really a loophole, but in practice this theoretically possible animal testing isn’t happening anyway.
Is Brexit Involved?
Should I buy any particular brand if I like animals?
No. No products on the shelves at the moment have been tested on animals and they are not going to be.