01344 873952

Customer Support

Contact Us

[email protected]

Mon - Fri: 9am - 5pm

Shop Opening Times

Is Animal Testing for Cosmetics About to Come Back to the UK?

Animal rights campaigners had worked for decades to end animal testing for cosmetics and, in 2009, a long-awaited EU-wide ban was introduced. Four years later, a ban on the sale of goods tested on animals anywhere in the world was implemented, leading many to believe that the campaign for cruelty-free cosmetics was officially won. But shamefully, even though the testing and marketing bans have been in force since 2013, animals are still suffering in thousands in laboratories today.

Europe’s ban on animal testing for cosmetics is at risk, and Sir Paul McCartney is stepping in to help. The ex-Beatles frontman is adding his voice to the ‘Save Cruelty-Free Cosmetics European Citizens’ Initiative’ spearheaded by PETA and more than 100 other animal protection organisations. The aims is to mobilise 1 million European citizens to call on the European Commission to uphold and strengthen the ban on testing cosmetics ingredients on animals.

“We all thought the battle was over and that cosmetics tests on animals in Europe were a thing of the past, but sadly, that’s not the case. The European Chemicals Agency continues to demand the use of thousands of rabbits, rats, fish, and other animals in cosmetics ingredients tests,” says McCartney – a long-time vegetarian and animal advocate. “But you can help put a stop to it. No animal should suffer for beauty,” he adds.

Under the EU chemicals regulation, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is demanding new tests on animals for chemicals used exclusively as cosmetics ingredients. The rationale is that the tests are needed to demonstrate safety for workers who manufacture or handle the substances – yet many of these chemicals have been used safely for decades and are approved for use by consumers. The vast majority of EU citizens oppose animal testing for cosmetics, and these undemocratic demands go against their wishes.

A study has identified a number of EU cosmetic ingredients tested on animals since the Cosmetics Regulation ban; data largely collected to prove worker and environmental safety under REACH or because alternative testing methods were rejected, researchers say.

Animal Testing Still Happening Despite Ban

In 1998, the U.K. was the first country to ban animal testing for cosmetics products and their ingredients. In 2007, Israel prohibited animals from testing cosmetics, while India banned cosmetic animal testing in 2014. In 2019, Australia passed a bill that forbids the testing of new chemicals on animals to be used for cosmetics purposes.

Today, there are more than forty countries that have passed laws to limit or ban cosmetics animal testing, including several states in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, the U.K., Switzerland, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Iceland, Norway, and every country in the European Union.

However, despite bans that outlawed such testing years ago, a new analysis has revealed that hundreds of cosmetic products sold in the U.K. and Europe still contain ingredients that have been tested on animals. Banned tests were made on ingredients used in products, including lipsticks, sunscreen, moisturizers, and hair conditioner, with over 100 separate experiments executed on rabbits and mice.

You may have assumed that most major cosmetics companies were on board with alternatives to cruelty to animals, but there are some that still pay to poison and kill. It isn’t always easy to know which brands don’t test on animals. For instance, L’Oréal, which doesn’t test on animals in the United States, pays for deadly testing in China, where archaic and painful experiments on animals are required for cosmetics.

Thomas Hartung, an animal testing alternative expert at Johns Hopkins University and one of the analysis authors, points out that “European customers can’t assume the products they buy are not tested on animals. Moreover, even products labelled as not tested on animals may contain some ingredients that are tested on animals.”

Two sets of competing legislation are at the core of this issue. First, the ban on animal testing of cosmetic ingredients in the E.U. came into force in 2009. Yet, another law regulating chemicals was introduced in 2007, forcing companies to identify and manage the risks associated with chemicals they manufacture and market in the E.U. to guarantee worker safety. According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), this can include chemicals manufactured exclusively for use in cosmetics, obscuring the animal testing ban for cosmetic ingredients.

According to Dr. Julia Fentem, head of the safety and environmental assurance centre of Unilever, one of the world’s largest cosmetics manufacturers, there has always been uncertainty about how to comply with the cosmetics legislation, the chemicals legislation, or the E.U. directive on animal protection, which states that there should be no animal testing unless it’s vitally necessary. This has made it challenging for companies.

The analysis found that this inconsistency has, unfortunately, resulted in some chemical companies performing the banned animal tests on cosmetic ingredients. However, the researchers behind the investigation noted that these animal tests were carried out on cosmetics-only ingredients ‘to satisfy the chemicals legislation.’

The researchers, including a toxicologist from the German chemicals company Clariant, looked at hundreds of papers detailing chemical safety tests available on ECHA’s website. They found that out of 413 ingredients used exclusively in cosmetics, 63 were tested after the E.U. ban. In addition, according to the paper published in Alternatives to Animal Experimentation, the post-ban ingredients were subject to 104 new animal tests.

Under the guise of the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation, the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) issued a joint statement announcing that they’re still insisting on animal testing for chemicals used exclusively in cosmetics for which there’s a possibility of workforce exposure during manufacturing processes.

For ingredients that are used in cosmetics as well as other types of products, tests on animals are permitted regardless of any workforce exposure risk, suggesting that the REACH regulation overrides the EU Cosmetics Regulation.

85% of Brits are against the reintroduction of animal testing for cosmetics in the UK

New research conducted by YouGov on behalf of animal protection organisation Cruelty Free International found that 85% of Brits are against the reintroduction of animal testing for cosmetics in the UK. With it, recently announced that Home Secretary Priti Patel could reintroduce animal testing for cosmetic ingredients in the UK for the first time in 23 years, this data revealed that most Brits are opposed to the decision.

More than half of adults (65%) in Great Britain support a binding plan to phase out animal testing, and a further 66% revealed they would like to see the Government set a date to end the use of animal tests, the data found. Just under three quarters (70%) said they would find it unacceptable for testing on animals to still be taking place 90 years from now, 82% find it unacceptable for experiments on animals to continue where alternative, viable non-animal methods exist, and 68% would support an investment strategy to accelerate the availability of alternatives.

A petition by Cruelty Free International, Animal Free Research UK and OneKind is calling for a phase out plan for animal testing in the UK, and so far, it has reached more than 84,000 signatures. “Our research with YouGov shows that the public is overwhelmingly supportive of a phased-out end to animal testing in the UK with deadlines applied,” said Kerry Postlewhite, director of public affairs at Cruelty Free International. 

“We are calling on the Government to outline an action plan setting out a proactive strategy for ending reliance on outdated and unreliable animal experiments. Like those deployed in other important policy areas such as climate emissions and pollution, the roadmap should contain agreed milestones, targets, and timetables. “New non-animal methods, or new approach methodologies (NAMS), promise to deliver safer chemicals and more effective medicines more quickly and at less cost. Yet, while NAMS are regularly shown to demonstrate far higher relevance to human diseases, and widely supported by the public, they continually to be woefully underfunded.

“Not only do animal experiments cause inexcusable suffering to animals in laboratories, [but] they are also not rooted in science. It is time that we adopted a fundamentally different approach and followed both the science and public opinion.”

Tech Should Replace All Animal Testing

A European Citizens’ Initiative is a petition-like mechanism designed to enable EU citizens to participate in EU policies. When an initiative amasses more than 1 million signatures within 12 months, the European Commission will look to take action. To pioneer a new, humane era free from animal experiments, the European Citizens’ Initiative has three goals.

Firstly, it urges the EU to protect and strengthen existing cosmetics legislation to safeguard consumers, workers, and the environment without testing on animals.

Secondly, it advocates for the transformation of EU chemicals regulations to ensure human health and the environment are protected without new requirements for animal tests.

Finally, it calls on the Commission to commit to working towards animal-free science in all areas – not limited to cosmetics. This is a clear, achievable roadmap.

Troy Seidle, research and toxicology vice-president at Humane Society International, said: “The chemicals law is being used to force companies, despite strenuous objections and even legal challenges, to commission questionable new animal testing as part of a bureaucratic box-ticking exercise”.

The researchers behind the analysis warned that more animal testing of cosmetics-only ingredients is imminent. “ECHA has already asked for new animal tests, involving thousands of animals and undermining the public’s confidence in the way the E.U. is upholding its animal testing bans,” added Dr. Katy Taylor, science and regulatory affairs director at the charity Cruelty-Free International.

Campaigners and even scientists have stressed that animal testing is no longer scientifically required to ensure cosmetic ingredients are safe for humans. “Lessons learned in the animal-free safety assessment of cosmetics over many years can be readily applied to the occupational safety assessment of ingredients without compromising human safety,” a representative for the Animal-Free Safety Assessment Collaboration pointed out.

Some of the animal tests required by law have not even been validated, meaning that their scientific basis, reliability, and relevance to humans have not been satisfactorily demonstrated. This, combined with significant biological differences between humans and the animals used in toxicity tests, adds up to unreliable results that risk failing to protect humans and the environment.

Advanced, animal-free research methods are available and developing all the time. Cutting-edge tools such as three-dimensional tissue models and advanced computer simulations are used routinely today to assess the safety of cosmetics without harming a single animal. McCartney and the European Citizens’ Initiative are calling on the European Commission to act and to facilitate a transition to these methods of humane, human relevant science.