VICTORY! Europe Marks the End of Cosmetic Tests on Animals
By The Lady Rhiannon
There is great news for animal advocates out there. The European Union has announced that they have passed legislation that will effectively ban of the sale, import, or manufacture of any and all cosmetics that have been tested on animals. The ban is set to take effect starting March 11 of 2013. Anyone who wants to sell cosmetics, including toiletries such as toothpaste, deodorant, and soap, in Europe must ensure that there are no ingredients anywhere in the product that have been tested on animals. This is a HUGE breakthrough for animal rights activists and, of course, the animals we fight to protect.
This victory has been the culmination of a two decade long effort by the “Cruelty Free International” charity foundation and the cruelty-free retailer “The Body Shop”. Together they have launched an international campaign to end animal testing and promote cruelty-free products. So far 55 countries have signed a pledge in support of the ban. The organization has indicated that one of their next main targets is China, which still requires such animal tests for cosmetic products. Of course, there is still a large amount of testing in America as well. However, there is a lot of hope for the United States because the Food and Drug Administration does not require product testing on animals.
It is difficult to get a clear answer as to how many animals are used in cosmetic tests each year because there is very little regulation of such things and most countries do not have laws requiring corporations or experimenters to keep track of the number of animals used. Modest estimates are in the hundreds of thousands worldwide every year; thousands die a year in the United States alone. The clearest estimates I could find were for all lab animals used for cosmetics, medicine, and all other products, which is between 14 and 70 million animals worldwide in any given year. Cats, dogs, mice, rats, and rabbits are often used to test the irritancy and toxicity of cosmetic products through painful exposure experiments.
All of the experiments are cruel, painful, and unnecessary. For example, they typically drip chemicals into the eyes of rabbits to test a product’s sensitivity. This can cause soreness, swelling, bleeding from the eyes, and blindness. It is also common practice to manually pump substances into the lungs or stomachs of dogs, cats, rats, and other animals until the animals die or the experimenters are otherwise satisfied with the experiment. That test is called “Acute oral toxicity” testing, and the animals in this experiment who do not die often suffer from seizures, paralysis, diarrhea, and/or bleeding from the mouth or throat. The “Acute dermal toxicity” test is when they apply a substance to the shaved skin of a rat, guinea pig, or rabbit, and cover it to prevent the animal from licking the chemicals off. Both the Acute oral and the acute dermal tests are designed to figure out the amount of substance needed to kill at least half of the exposed animals within two weeks’ time. Over 50% of all animals used in cosmetic tests die within three weeks.
If the animals do not die in any given experiment, they are either euthanized or reused in the next experiment. The list of experiments (usually involving forced inhalation or consumption of dangerous substances) goes on and on. They even expose pregnant animals to various chemicals to test for birth defect. These are pointless, unnecessary tests that really prove nothing about the effect a product will have on a person. Animals are simply too different than humans for animal tests to be practically applicable. There is no logical reason for these animals to suffer for our vanity and I am so glad that Europe has made this leap in their part to end the madness and I too hope the world will follow suit.
There are literally dozens of tests now available that can usually cheaper and always more dependable than the results of animal tests. Companies like EpiSkin, EpiDerm, and SkinEThic have developed the technology of artificial human skin. We can test substances on human blood given by volunteers for also. “The Bovine Corneal Opacity and Permeability Test” and “Isolated Chicken Eye Test” use eyes of slaughtered animals from the meat industry to test the potential irritation a product could cause to eyes. This not only saves countless rats, rabbits, and guinea pigs, but also makes good use of what otherwise would go to waste.
The Chief Executive of Cruelty Free International, Michelle Thew, said of the European animal testing ban, “This is truly an historic event and the culmination of over 20 years of campaigning. Now we will apply our determination and vision on a global stage to ensure that the rest of the world follows this lead.” This is a controversial topic, but one that does not get a lot of attention in the news. Animals are easy to ignore because they do not talk, but they matter. Many people cannot bear to face the reality because it is so ugly, but that means that you care enough to do something about it.
You can get involved with the fight in many ways; sign petitions and pledges, email your congressmen for stricter animal protection legislation, and make sure to buy cruelty free products. Many products say “cruelty free” on the back, but you can also visit the Human Society website to get a free list of animal safe products as well as brands of which to stay clear. These companies will reject animal testing if we genuinely reject THEM for it. Remember, you vote with your money, so please be mindful of your choices. These animals cannot fight for themselves; we are the only ones who can make this vital change…a necessary change, a worthy change, and relatively easy change to make.
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