Thursday 21 September 2017

Wendy Higgins: Animal testing is the beauty industry’s well-kept ugly secret

Sales of cosmetics grew by 18 per cent in China last year, amounting to €8bn. Photo: Reuters
Sales of cosmetics grew by 18 per cent in China last year, amounting to €8bn. Photo: Reuters

ANIMAL testing is the beauty industry’s well-kept ugly secret. Many consumers still shop under the assumption that cosmetics animal suffering is a thing of the past. The truth, however, is altogether harder to swallow - thousands of animals are still used to test cosmetic chemicals.

The campaign to end cosmetics cruelty has its roots in Britain, where public outrage at the suffering of animals for vanity products like lipstick and shampoo grew throughout the 1970s and 1980s, leading a newly-elected Labour government to end the practice in 1997. The 1990s also gave rise to a vibrant campaign to end cosmetics testing Europe-wide. Initially met with industry resistance, overwhelming public and political support eventually won out and Europe’s labs stopped cosmetics animal testing in 2009.



This was a milestone victory but by no means the end of the story. Many companies continue to test on animals in countries such as the United States, China and Brazil, either because the regulatory authorities require it, or because the companies still feel they need to do some testing. In these countries, there is limited public scrutiny and animals continue to have cosmetic chemicals forced down their throats, dripped into their eyes and applied to their shaved skin, sometimes in doses high enough to kill. China, as one of the few countries in the world to require such testing, bucks the global trend and provides another reason for companies not to kick the animal-testing habit.

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