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EU Ban on Animal Testing

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As you are most likely aware - there is a lot of controversy over the testing of cosmetics on animals.  We've all seen the horrific photos on the internet of bunnies with inflammed red eyes and balding skin.

Well.  On March 11th 2014, The New York Times published an article entitled: "E.U. bans cosmetics with animal-tested ingredients"

And everyone yelped with delight.... though some may have been wondering why animal testing has only now supposedly been banned after all the controversy of the 1980's, some have been wondering if this is enough, and some have been wondering what's happening in the rest of the world - is the EU ahead of the curve or lagging behind?

Let me try to shed a little light on this current legislation.

In recent years, China has started to become an attractive export country for many products as its economy has grown and its people are demanding more and more global products.  Obviously entering such an expanding economy is highly attractive and lucrative for large companies.

But when it came to cosmetics, the delight of entering this new economy came at a very high price.  One of China's demands was that the cosmetic products and their ingredients had to be tested on animals before they could be sold in the Chinese market.  Many large companies, with their sights focussed solely on profits, succombed to this demand.  As a result many of these large companies lost their 'leaping bunny' symbol which signified that their products were not tested on animals.  But it was a small price to pay, right?  Because their profits sky-rocketed in this peaking economy.   

Hmmmmm...... I think they paid a high price.  Many of them are now desperately trying to win back customers as stories leaked about their compromising standards in the search of profits.  But it's not just the costs they are incurring to try to regain public trust again..... it's the very fact that they lost one of the principles they claimed to stand for when they saw the sparkle of gold in their hands.  If companies are willing to give up on such an important and intrigal principle as standing up against animal testing, just because of their desire for money, I question what else they are willing to give up on so easily?

So the latest legislation from Brussels placed an EU "ban on the import and sale of cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals and to pledge more efforts to push other parts of the world, like China, to accept alternatives." (New York Times)

This is great news for everyone living in the EU.  The cosmetics we now buy, going forward, will not have been exposed to animal testing.  However it may mean that EU citizens may not have access to new products because the EU may not be able to ensure that some new ingredients are safe to use without adequate testing and as all testing for cosmetic-reasons has now been, once and for all, banned within the EU such products will  not be allowed into the EU market, legally.

And what about products that are already on sale in the EU?  How do we know their ingredients haven't been previously tested on animals?  And does the EU have the resources to find and remove all these products?

It seems the primary reason for the legislation is to encourage countries such as China to follow suite and to accept alternatives to animal testing.  Can the EU truly influence China?  Perhaps if more countries, worldwide, impose similar legislation it may be possible.  And I guess we have to start somewhere.

But, I have to admit I am not celebrating just yet.  I suspect, like with many pieces of legislation, there will be loopholes.  And companies who have their eye set solely on profit will be keen to exploit any loopholes.  For example, there are rumours that companies could sell the same product in the EU and in China.  However in the EU they would back up the product's safety with evidence from tests, alternative to animal testing.  Whilst they could market the same products in China backed up with evidence from animal tests.

So I, personally, am not quite feeling over-excited about the new legislation.  I think there are a number of bumps still to be ironed out and there will remain ways to exploit this latest legislation.

What are your thoughts?  Feel free to share your views by clicking on 'Comments' below.


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  1. Vivienne

    Excellent insight, Vanessa. We as customers should be more aware of what we are buying, especially with all the media attention in the areas you have mentioned. When it comes to cosmetics I appreciate that it is easier said than done, however. When you look at the ingredients label it often reads like a foreign language (there are tiems when I also struggle). That's one reason why I wrote a short series of blogposts in July 2013 (It's all Double Dutc to me) to try to help my customers understand legal safety requirements and labelling. For anyone who may want to read the series again, here's the link to the first part:

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  2. Vanessa

    Well said Nikki and Vivienne. Yes the consumer should be able to make an informed choice but they should also wake up and be more aware of what they purchase instead of blindly going with the fashion flow. Take the recent uproar concerning angora wool as an example. And who hasn't seen one of the horrific videos of the Raccoon dogs in China, robbed of their skins for fashionable fur trim! Sheepskin is also pretty controversial,and has been linked with animal cruelty. Fashion has a lot to answer for. Three examples, what's next? It's up to us to stay alert.

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  3. Vivienne

    Well said, Nikki. The industry has come a long way but still has a distance to go. I'm a strong believer in transparency & honesty and, whilst I would never dream of having my products tested on animals, I believe that companies that still allow animal testing should stand up and openly admit it to their customers so they (the customers) can decide whether to continue to buy those products or not. That way we might find more and more companies complying with the Law and not searching for loopholes.

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  4. Nikki Timp

    I too am not celebrating yet as believe that many companies are too intent to try and capture the market where they can, therefore keeping a foot in each camp rather than standing up and doing the right thing. The cosmetics industry has come a long way but still has a long road ahead before worldwide cosmetic animal testing is erradicated. China also has a long way to go before animals are seen as beautiful creatures that share our planet and not to be exploited, not only by the cosmetics industry but by the fashion and food industries too!

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