Every now and again we all get that inevitable, overwhelming feeling that washes over us from being constantly surrounded by animal cruelty. And the first question that usually comes to mind is – ‘what can I do that will actually help?’ Well, a lot… because every action counts. No matter how small, every single thing you do, whether it’s donating, fostering, volunteering, making certain choices when shopping, even speaking about issues and spreading the word are all ways that help the larger cause of confronting animal cruelty.
One of the best things we can do is arm ourselves with as much knowledge as possible, which is a great tool to have when fighting for what you believe in.
To that end, let me give you some information about cosmetics animal testing, which will help to simplify the science and provide some valuable talking points for when others debate you on the issue. Because let’s face it: science can be a completely different language for many of us!
What does ‘Cruelty-Free’ mean?
It means cosmetics and other products that have been manufactured or developed through methods that don’t involve experimenting on animals.
What is cosmetics animal testing?
This describes the practice of testing ingredients cosmetic ingredients by administering them to animals – this is done to determine their possible negative reactions on humans. These ingredients are used in creams, shampoos and other beauty/hygiene products, and the tests are often painful, if not deadly. Hundreds of thousands of animals die every year for our beauty products.
Although they are not required by law, several tests are commonly performed by exposing mice, rats, rabbits and guinea pigs to cosmetics ingredients. This can include:
Skin and eye irritation tests where chemicals are rubbed onto the shaved skin or dripped into the eyes of restrained rabbits without any pain relief. Repeated force-feeding studies lasting weeks or months to look for signs of general illness or specific health hazards such as cancer or birth defects and widely condemned “lethal dose” tests, in which animals are forced to swallow large amounts of a test chemical to determine the dose that causes death. At the end of a test the animals are killed, normally by asphyxiation, neck-breaking, or decapitation. Pain relief is not provided. A large percentage of the animals used in such testing are not counted in official statistics and receive no protection under the Animal Welfare Act.
What are the alternatives to animal testing?
Advanced non-animal tests represent the very latest techniques that science has to offer, replacing outdated animal tests that have been around for many decades and are woefully outdated. More than 40 non-animal tests have been validated for use, and these modern alternatives can offer results that are more relevant to people, often more cheaply and efficiently, too.
For example, there are a number of skin tests available that use reconstructed human skin, such as EpiDerm, as well as the “3T3 NRU” test for sunlight-induced “phototoxicity,” and the Bovine Cornea Opacity and Permeability test for eye corrosion.
Is cosmetics testing on animals really necessary for our health?
Companies can ensure the safety of their products by choosing to create them using the thousands of ingredients that have a long history of safe use. There are already many products on the market made using such ingredients. Companies also have the option of using existing non-animal tests or investing in and developing alternative non-animal tests for new ingredients.
Besides animal welfare, are there other arguments against testing on animals?
Yes. Animal tests also have scientific limitations because different species can respond differently when exposed to the same chemicals. Consequently, results from animal tests may not be relevant to humans, or may under- or over-estimating real-world hazards to people. In addition, results from animal tests can be quite variable and difficult to interpret. Unreliable and ineffective animal tests mean consumer safety cannot be guaranteed. In contrast, non-animal alternatives can combine human cell-based tests and sophisticated computer models to deliver human-relevant results in hours or days, unlike some animal tests that can take months or years. Non-animal alternatives are also typically much more cost-effective than tests that use animals.
Is animal testing for cosmetics a legal requirement in Canada?
Although the law requires that animals be used for medical testing in Canada, animals are not required for cosmetic testing. Yet in many cases animals are still used, particularly to test the ingredients used in cosmetic products. According to Canadian law, a cosmetic is defined as “a product that cleanses, improves or alters the complexion, skin, hair or teeth.” There are several federal laws relating to cosmetics: The Food and Drugs Act, the Cosmetic Regulations, and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations. However, none of these specify requirements for animal testing for cosmetic purposes.
What can be done to end animal testing for cosmetics?
One approach is through legislative and policy initiatives that prohibit the testing of cosmetics on animals. Europe has led the way by banning all animal testing for cosmetic products and the sale of all newly animal-tested cosmetics. Until that time, an effective approach is consumer pressure. Companies will get the idea if consumers show a strong preference for cruelty-free cosmetics and support an end to cosmetics animal testing.
Armed with the proper information and a list of do-able actions, you’ll go from feeling overwhelmed to informed in no time! Never forget, we call can make a difference for animals.
And thank-you for you all you do for animals!
“Every product, every action, and every lifestyle decision can be a choice to harm less.” —Zoe Weil, The Animals’ Agenda