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March 6, 2013

About Cosmetics Animal Testing

Humane Society International

  • HSI is calling on countries around the world to "Be Cruelty-Free". iStock

Did you know that in many parts of the world, animals in laboratories are still suffering and dying to test cosmetics such as lipstick and shampoo? They have chemicals forced down their throats and dripped into their eyes and onto their shaved skin. It's the ugly secret of the beauty industry that Humane Society International’s Be Cruelty-Free campaign is determined to end.

Q: What animal tests are carried out for cosmetics?

A:Typically, animal tests for cosmetics include skin and eye irritation tests, where chemicals are rubbed onto the shaved skin or dripped into the eyes of rabbits; repeated oral force-feeding studies lasting weeks or months to look for signs of general illness or specific health issues, such as cancer or birth defects; and even widely condemned “lethal dose” tests, in which animals are forced to swallow massive amounts of a test chemical to determine the dose that causes death. These tests can cause considerable pain and distress. Pain relief is not provided and at the end of a test the animals are killed, normally by asphyxiation, neck-breaking or decapitation. Learn more.

Take action and donate to help us stop the suffering.

Q: Do these animal tests have scientific limitations?

A: Yes, because different species can respond differently when exposed to the same chemicals. This means that results from animal tests may not be relevant to humans, under- or over-estimating hazards to people. Animal test results can also be quite variable and difficult to interpret. Unreliable and non-predictive animal tests mean consumer safety cannot be guaranteed.

Q: How can companies avoid animal testing?

A: More than 500 cosmetics companies—including LUSH, JASÖN and Kiss My Face—have sworn off animal testing, yet still produce new, safe and fabulous beauty products. They do so by choosing combinations of the thousands of existing cosmetic raw ingredients that have already been established as safe for human use, instead of purchasing newly developed chemicals that will also have been newly animal-tested. In addition, the safety of new product formulations made from these existing ingredients can be assured using available state-of-the-art non-animal tests. Find out more about cruelty-free companies.

Q: What are the alternatives to animal testing?

A: 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 haven’t stood the test of time. 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 human reconstructed 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. Find out more.

Q: Have any countries banned animal testing for cosmetics?

A: Yes. Animal testing for cosmetics has been banned throughout the 28 countries of the European Union since 2009. Thanks in large part to HSI’s Be Cruelty-Free campaign, the EU also banned the sale of cosmetic products or ingredients subject to new animal testing after March 2013. Israel imposed a testing and sales ban in 2007 and 2013 respectively. Following a vibrant campaign by our Be Cruelty-Free India team, India also introduced a national test ban in 2013. Finally, our Be Cruelty-Free Brazil team congratulated the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo for introducing a complete cosmetics animal testing ban in January 2014.

However, cosmetics animal testing remains legal in most other countries. Although many countries don’t expressly require such testing, as it is not prohibited, it continues to take place at the discretion of cosmetics companies and ingredient suppliers. In a few countries, including China, cosmetics animal testing is still a legal requirement in some cases, although our Be Cruelty-Free China campaign succeeded in securing a pledge to phase out some mandatory animal tests from June 2014.

Q: What is HSI’s Be Cruelty-Free campaign doing to end cosmetics animal testing?

A: HSI’s Be Cruelty-Free campaign is the largest initiative in the world to end cosmetics animal cruelty. We have Be Cruelty-Free campaigns across Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Russia and Taiwan, while Be Cruelty-Free USA is run by our sister organization, The HSUS. We’re advocating for animals by:

  • Changing laws to ban animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients, and to end the sale of newly animal-tested beauty products from anywhere the world.
  • Promoting modern science, championing the development of new non-animal tests and training regulators and companies in their use.
  • Educating consumers, raising awareness about animal testing and how to shop cruelty-free.
  • Working with companies to help them move away from animal testing, and partnering with cruelty-free companies to lobby for change.
  • Building an unstoppable international campaign backed by the public, top companies, politicians and our celebrity friends Paul McCartney, Ricky Gervais, Ke$ha and more.

Q: How can I help?

A: Get involved with these easy actions to help HSI put an end to cosmetics animal cruelty:

  • Sign the Be Cruelty-Free pledge to show your support for banning animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients.
  • Support us by becoming a Lab Animal Defender with our monthly donor program, or make a one-time donation to help us expand our Be Cruelty-Free campaign and save more animals.
  • Shop cruelty-free—buy only from companies that say no to animal testing and to newly developed and animal-tested ingredients. Download a Leaping Bunny Global Shopping Guide.
  • Contact your favorite brands and urge them to make the leap to cruelty-free. Ask whether the company 1) animal-tests its products or ingredients, 2) purchases newly developed ingredients that have been animal tested by the supplier, or 3) sells its products to countries like China that may require new animal testing. If the answer to any of these questions is yes, put the product back on the shelf.
  • Make some noise—follow us on Twitter @HSIGlobal and tweet about the campaign using hashtag #BeCrueltyFree. Like us on Facebook, too, and share our news and actions with your friends.
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