The Cosmetic Industry’s Ugly Secret
It’s an unpalatable truth that in 2018, animals in laboratories across the world are still suffering and dying in order to test cosmetics such as mascara and face creams. According to The Humane Society International (HSI), a leading force for animal protection, an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, mice and rabbits perish each year, all for the sake of makeup.
Imagine chemicals repeatedly forced down your throat or dripped into your eyes. Picture having your hair shaved against your will, your prone skin slathered in stinging lotions. Now consider someone inflicting this agony on your beloved and terrified pet. With effects including blindness, organ damage, internal bleeding and convulsions, all endured without pain relief, many animals die during these horrific experiments. The remainder are killed by decapitation, asphyxiation or neck-breaking once the laboratories are done with them. For every skin irritation test conducted in a lab, an average of two rabbits die. Rabbits are frequent victims of animal experimenters for the very same reasons they make great pets – they’re mild-tempered and easy to handle and breed.
Why Do Companies Still Test Cosmetics on Animals?
It’s gut-wrenching that sentient beings are still tortured in this manner, especially when science is ever-evolving and superior tests now exist that don’t involve animals. These include methods and models based on human cell and tissue cultures, stem cell and genetic testing and non-invasive imaging techniques using MRIs and CT Scans.
So why do companies continue to use inhumane methods to test for side-effects such as skin irritancy, sensitivity to light and acute toxicity? In the majority of cases, this happens because manufacturers insist on developing and using ‘new’ ingredients which don’t have corresponding safety data. For years, funding for the development of non-animal testing simply hasn’t been made a priority, meaning that there are test gaps where companies claim no feasible, affordable alternative is available. Except there is an alternative, staring us in the face – if companies simply stuck to using the thousands of cosmetics ingredients already available they would never have to test on animals again.
Is Testing on Animals Ever Justifiable?
Some scientists argue that it’s still necessary to test life-saving drugs including those used to treat HIV and cancer on animals because they involve highly complex physiological processes that can only be studied in a whole, living animal. The counter argument is that even though we share most of our genes with other mammals, we are not larger versions of dogs or monkeys, just as they are not smaller versions of us – for this reason, animal testing frequently has a low success rate for predicting harmful human side-effects, meaning that the cruelty inflicted on those animals has been for nothing.
When it comes to cosmetics, however, the argument is far more clear-cut – cosmetics are not a matter of life-and death, except for the wretched animals involved. Envisage a hamster wearing lipstick or a mouse fretting about its wrinkles – ludicrous, right? Animals don’t use cosmetics, so why should they have to suffer?
The #BeCrueltyFree Campaign
“I believe that if we really wanted to, we could work steadily towards a day in 10 to 20 years’ time when animal experimentation will have disappeared.” – Professor Michael Balls, the first head of the European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing.
The encouraging news is that public sentiment is shifting. In 2009, the European Union led the way, banning animal testing for cosmetics throughout its 28 member countries. In 2013, India followed suit, with New Zealand imposing the ban in 2015. Although testing remains legal in the United States, a recent poll found that 73% of US voters would favour Congress passing legislation to phase out the testing of cosmetics on animals.
Thanks to HSI’s #BeCrueltyFree campaign, the largest and most effective initiative in the world to end cosmetics animal cruelty, legislative bills for further bans are now under consideration not only the United States but also Brazil, Taiwan and Australia.
If you’d like to support #BeCrueltyFree, Save the Earth urge you to sign the global Be Cruelty-Free pledge to show your support for banning animal testing for cosmetic products worldwide.
Shop Smart – Buy Cruelty Free and Vegan Cosmetics
Cruelty-free cosmetics are those which have not been tested on animals at any point in the creation or production process. Vegan cosmetics are products that don’t contain any animal ingredients or animal-derived ingredients, including collagen, gelatin, beeswax, lanolin, cholesterol, carmine and honey. Unfortunately, because the term ‘vegan’ is not regulated, it is often used simply to convey that a product does not contain animal ingredients. Items that are tested on animals can claim to be ‘vegan’, with animal lovers unwittingly buying and using them.
If you feel bamboozled by the labels, you’re not alone. Fortunately, organisations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) are striving to clarify matters with their ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘cruelty free and vegan’ logos. With over 1,900 brands certified by PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies programme, it is one of the most well-known cruelty-free initiatives.
Leaping Bunny, the only internationally recognised certification organisation for cruelty-free brands, is taking this one step further. If you see their logo on the label, you can rest assured not only is the product and its ingredients cruelty-free, but also that this has been confirmed with the brand’s suppliers. You can read more about what the different bunny logos stand for here.
While ‘cruelty-free’ has been a basic mantra of earthy lines such as the Body Shop and Aveda for decades, it’s reassuring to know that many other household names are now getting on board. PETA have compiled a searchable database of companies that do and don’t test on animals. This includes details of over 3,000 cruelty-free companies to help you make informed choices before parting with your money.
If you care about the welfare of animals, think twice before you buy – because they’re worth it.