|After years of delays and red tape, the European Union has announced that, from March this year, animal testing for cosmetics will be banned in all 28 member states.|
Under the new rules, manufacturers will not be allowed to test any product, or the ingredients used to make it, on animals in any EU country. Imported products will also have to be proven to be entirely cruelty-free before they can enter the European market.
But, while this is undoubtedly a major step forward, it is in fact just the tip of the iceberg in terms of banning the global practice of testing cosmetics on our furry friends.
Even after the legislation comes into force this spring, and there are rumours it could be delayed further, around 80% of countries around the world will still continue to allow cosmetics to be tested on animals. So beware of those duty-free bits and bobs you pick up on your travels this summer! Even more worrying, in some cases governments will even insist on animal testing, but we will get to the situation in China a little later!
Even companies based within Europe will be allowed to continue with animal testing if they have manufacturing plants in other countries around the world, even though those products will not be allowed to enter the EU. In addition critics have revealed possible loopholes in the law that mean some brands could still test on animals if their products can be proven to fall under the remit of drugs rather than cosmetics, for example face creams that claim to target skin problems such as acne or eczema.
Confused? Well you are not alone. We, as concerned consumers just want to know that the products we buy have not been tested on animals, don't we?
Like Beauty Without The Beasts, Cruelty Free International (CFI) is committed to driving change within the cosmetics industry and has launched a global campaign to lobby governments one at a time in a bid to achieve a worldwide ban.
"There is still a lot of work to do" Michelle Thew, chief executive of Cruelty Free International
CFI chief executive, Michelle Thew, told us: "More than three quarters of the world allows animals to be used to test products and ingredients when there are other ways to do that.
"In the European Union alone there is a list of 20,000 ingredients that have been endorsed as being cruelty free, so there is no excuse to use animal testing.
"In March there is expected to be an EU ban on animal testing, but we are by no means done. There is still a lot of work to do."
A global challenge
"CFI is determined to get a global ban country by country, region by region and city by city and we believe we will get that ban.
"Already we have seen companies switch suppliers to ensure they are cruelty free and that is starting to send a message down the chain.
"Non-animal methods are available and often it is tradition or company lawyers who push for the practise to continue."
Non-animal tests are not only morally and ethically preferable, but they are also much more accurate. After all, the reaction of a rabbit to a product being put into its eye is never going to accurately reflect the reaction it will cause in humans.
Modern alternative methods include, for example, reconstituted human epidermis. This uses skin donated from patients undergoing cosmetic surgery to be used to test products. Other 'in vitro' (literally meaning 'in glass' or 'in a test tube') studies can help to gauge a person's likely reaction to ingesting a product or what will happen if it accidentally gets into an open wound, all tests that are routinely carried out on animals at present.
Thew explains: "There is a big opening in the market and we are seeing more and more suppliers having to produce products and ingredients that have not been tested on animals because their customers are insisting on it.
"With in vitro methods you are getting much more reliable results, so companies are not just doing it for moral and ethical reasons, but because it makes good business sense to. The alternative methods are guaranteed to be more effective.
"Tradition is driving a lot of the animal testing that goes on today, but once companies make the switch they will find that it is cheaper."
John Paul Dejoria set up the Paul Mitchell haircare brand with colleague, Paul Mitchell, in 1980 and from the very beginning they made the decision not to use animal testing. They also demand that all suppliers sign a pledge that they too are truly animal friendly.
"We make products for humans, so we test on humans"John Paul Dejoria of Paul Mitchell Systems
In an interview with Beauty Without The Beasts, Dejoria said: "When we started the brand we said we would make products for humans, so we would test them on humans.
"Machines can do the testing now and we live in an age where we trust what computers can do. There is no comparison between testing using modern technology and testing on animals.
"We welcome the EU legislation, but we would urge our competitors not to wait for the regulation to come into force, but to act now. There are ingredients out there that have not been tested on animals and there are safe and effective ways of testing products, so there is no excuse. We have even found that, over time, it actually works out cheaper."
Controversy in China
While the EU prepares for the new laws to come into play, the battle continues in China.
You will no doubt have heard of the controversy surrounding brands like Urban Decay, who were publicly vilified for selling products in China. Such was the furore that the company backed down and announced it would no longer be importing or selling in the country.
For those of you a tad mystified by what is happening, and why this has become such a big issue now, we will explain. In a nutshell last year, and seemingly out of the blue, the Chinese government introduced a rule that means any cosmetic products from anywhere in the world that are imported into China MUST be tested on animals. To put that into perspective if Paul Mitchell wanted to sell its cruelty-free range in China, the products would be tested on animals and the Chinese government would send the company the bill for this. So, whether companies are strict about not testing on animals, they will in effect be funding the practise if they want to import into China from now on.
For some the lure of the money to be made in the beauty market in China is too tempting to pass up, but for others it is a step too far.
The Paul Mitchell brand, on hearing about the rules, immediately pulled out of selling in China and is now working with the Chinese authorities to try and change the laws.
Dejoria told us: "We have been selling into China and building a business there for more than 10 years and a lot of people told us we were crazy for pulling out, but we believe what we say and no amount of money is going to change our minds. Have we lost money from the decision? You bet we have!
"From our talks with people in China, it seems someone thought the law was necessary to make products safer and through bureaucracy it has happened. But many Chinese people we speak to do not think it is a good law and many agree with our point of view, so it is about working with the Government to show them another way. We have invested time and money in China over the years and although we are not selling products there, we are working with regulators to try and change that."
Changing the world
So, while one battle looks set to be won; the war is far from over. CFI is continuing its campaign, linking up with its ambassador, comedian Ricky Gervais, and Paul Mitchell to run national advertising campaigns and to help put pressure on governments to follow the EU lead.
Dejoria said: "I am making a stand knowing that I will help countries to do the right thing. You have to believe what you are saying. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk and finances have nothing to do with it."
Keep your eyes open on the Beauty Without The Beasts website for news of the EU legislation and what is going on in other countries around the world. Until things are clearer, you know that if a brand is included in our Where to Shop guide, then it is truly cruelty free. We will also be sure to remove brands known to be selling and importing into China while the current laws exist.