Putting an end to cosmetics testing on animals, definitively

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An activist lays half-naked with fake blood in a cage during a protest for animal rights, against the suffering and murdering of animals and against animal testing in Athens, Greece, 19 March 2017. [EPA/SIMELA PANTZARTZI]

The EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics was a huge step forward but a global ban is the only guarantee that no animal will have to suffer or die for the sake of a shampoo or lipstick ever again, writes Kerry Postlewhite.

Kerry Postlewhite is the director of public affairs at the leading animal protection organisation Cruelty Free International.

Next month will mark five years since the European Union placed itself at the very forefront of animal protection by banning the sale of cosmetics tested on animals. This year, the anniversary takes on particular significance. It coincides with a crucial European Parliament vote that could help create an international agreement bringing a definitive end to cosmetics animal testing globally.

Last month, the animal welfare community rejoiced when the European Parliament’s Environment Committee unanimously approved a resolution calling on the European Union to spearhead a global ban on animal testing in cosmetics.

Commissioners and governments now have the opportunity to show real global leadership and send a message to the rest of the world that no animal needs to suffer or die for the sake of beauty.

The landmark EU ban was a pivotal moment for animals in laboratories. It set in motion a global trend that inspired countless other nations to make a positive difference for animals.

In the past five years, many countries have stepped up and put in place progressive, compassionate new rules. India, Guatemala and New Zealand have enacted some form of restrictive legislation while several others including Korea and Turkey have taken other positive steps away from animal testing.

The EU ban has helped progress science too. Because of the ban, many cosmetics companies and scientists have stepped up their efforts to develop humane alternative tests that could be used to check the safety of cosmetics without forcing animals to suffer. This is science at its best – developing innovative, progressive, humane solutions that are cheaper, more reliable and more effective than the old-fashioned, cruel tests they replace.

Almost every type of human and animal cell can now be grown in the laboratory. Scientists have even managed to coax cells to grow into 3D structures, such as miniature human organs, which can provide a more realistic way to test.

Human cells donated from volunteers can also provide a more relevant way of studying human biology than animal testing. For example, tests using reconstituted human skin and other tissues have been developed and are used to replace the cruel rabbit eye and skin irritation tests.

But sadly, this isn’t enough. A staggering 80% of countries globally would still allow animal testing for cosmetics and the marketing of these tested products. Despite the fact that reliable alternatives are available, millions of animals continue to suffer.

More than 500,000 animals worldwide are estimated to be used in cruel and unnecessary cosmetics tests each year. We need to change the world for them – and we need to do it faster.

Those in the animal welfare sector are leading the charge. For example, Cruelty Free International’s Forever Against Animal Testing campaign, launched with The Body Shop last year, will deliver a global petition to the United Nations supporting the bid for an international convention banning cosmetics animal testing.

The petition has already been signed by over 4.5 million people and is on course to be the largest petition on animals ever delivered to the UN.

In 2015 a Nielsen survey found that “not tested on animals” mattered more to consumers than any other packaging claim. We hope that growing public sentiment along with our timely reminder about the positive changes for animals triggered by the EU ban will be enough to convince the European Parliament to vote on a resolution that ends cosmetics animal testing worldwide through the United Nations.

Not only would a global ban on animal testing in cosmetics products and ingredients help to protect millions of animals around the world, it would also revolutionise the beauty industry.

Achieving an enforceable international convention through the UN that establishes a harmonised global ban would level the playing field for industry and meet the expectations of consumers around the world.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals aim to transform the world by 2030. If global sustainable development means human progress that also sustains and respects the natural world, then we need to make sure that we give a voice to animals.

Once more the EU finds itself in the driving seat with the power to make a statement to the world and a real difference for animals. The EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics was a huge step forward. But a global ban is the only guarantee that no animal will have to suffer or die for the sake of a shampoo or lipstick ever again.

On March 6th Cruelty Free International celebrates the 5th anniversary of the EU animal cosmetics testing ban at the House of European History in Brussels alongside many of the policymakers involved in shaping the original ban and those working on scaling it up internationally. More details about the event including how to register can be found here: www.banniversary.eu