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April 17, 2012

Q&A: Cosmetic Testing in India

Humane Society International/India

  • HSI's global Be Cruelty-Free campaign is working to end cosmetics animal testing—forever. iStock

Q: Is animal testing for cosmetics legally required in India?

A: The use of animals in cosmetics safety testing not mandated in India. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) which draws its authority from the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940, which in turn comes under the governance of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), issues safety testing guidelines for cosmetics. While it prescribes a mixture of animal and non-animal tests for products containing new ingredients, it makes it optional for those cosmetics with ingredients listed down in European, North American or International Fragrance Association guidelines.

Q: Is animal testing of cosmetics already banned in some other parts of the world?

A: Yes! In the European Union, animal testing for cosmetics has been banned since 2009, and the sale of cosmetics subject to animal testing after March 2013 is also banned. Israel imposed similar bans in 2007 and 2013. Similar policy change is also under consideration in India and South Korea. In most other countries, cosmetics animal testing is neither expressly required nor prohibited, and therefore continues to take place at the discretion of cosmetics companies and ingredient suppliers. In a few countries, including China, cosmetics animal testing may still be a legal requirement for some ingredients and finished products.

Q: How many animals are used in cosmetics testing annually in India, and what sort of tests are performed on them?

A: There are no official statistics on the use of animals in cosmetics in India. Tests recommended by the Bureau of Indian Standards include the use of rats, rabbits and hamsters. Tests can include skin and eye irritation, in which chemicals are rubbed onto the shaved skin or dripped into the eyes of rabbits; repeated force-feeding studies lasting weeks or months to look for signs of general illness or specific health hazards; 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. At the end of a test, the animals are killed, normally by asphyxiation, neck-breaking or decapitation. Pain relief is not provided.

Q: How can cosmetics companies ensure safety without using animal tests?

A: Companies can assure the safety of their products by choosing from among thousands of existing ingredients with a long history of safe use, together with a growing number of proven, non-animal safety tests. This is the approach used by the hundreds of companies certified as cruelty-free under the internationally recognized Leaping Bunny program.

Q: Is it safe to use alternative methods instead of animal tests?

A: Advanced alternative, non-animal tests represent the very latest techniques that science has to offer, having been carefully evaluated by public authorities in multiple laboratories to confirm that results reliably predict outcomes in people. In contrast, many of the animal tests in use today date back to the 1920s or 40s and have never been validated. But we know now that animals in the laboratory can respond very differently from humans to the same product or chemical, under- or over-estimating real-world hazards to people, with test results being quite variable and difficult to interpret. Unreliable animal tests mean consumer safety cannot be guaranteed.

In contrast, today’s non-animal alternatives can combine the very latest human cell-based tests and sophisticated computer models to deliver human-relevant results in hours or days, unlike some animal tests that can take months or years. Non-animal alternatives are also typically much more cost-effective than tests that use animals. And because they have been scientifically validated, non-animal methods provide a higher level of safety for consumers than traditional animal tests.

Q: What does “cruelty-free” mean in relation to cosmetics?

A: A cruelty-free cosmetics company is one that has eliminated animal testing at all levels of production as of a “fixed cut-off date.” This must apply not only to the finished products that consumers purchase, but also to each and every raw ingredient. In order to meet its commitment to cruelty-free, a company should not sell its products in countries that require animal testing; it should not use new ingredients that would lead to new animal testing; and it must ensure that all of its ingredient suppliers commit to a policy of “no new cosmetics animal testing.”

Q: What is Humane Society International doing to end the use of animals for cosmetics testing?

A: HSI, through our Be Cruelty-Free campaign, is leading the call for governments and regulators around the world to use their power to end animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients. No animal should be made to suffer for the sake of a new beauty product.

In India, HSI has been working with the office of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, which regulates the manufacture, sale, import and standards of cosmetics. We have been proactive in drafting amendments to the current legislation to safety testing requirements for cosmetics in India. During this course, several Members of Parliament and Members of State Legislative Assemblies have also shown support to Be Cruelty-Free and written to the concerned ministries urging them to end the use of animals in cosmetic testing. We are also working with the Bureau of Indian Standards, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and the Committee for Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) to regulate the use of animals in experiments.

HSI is also working to raise public and consumer awareness on the issue of animal testing so that a growing number of companies decide to Be Cruelty-Free. Several influential personalities in India have urged their fans to support an end to painful and obsolete animal tests by opting for humane and compassionate products that do not test on animals.

Q: How can I help?

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

  • Sign the Be Cruelty-Free pledge show your support for an Indian ban on animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients.
  • Shop cruelty-free—buy only from companies that say no to animal testing and to newly developed and animal-tested ingredients. Find cruelty-free products with the handy Leaping Bunny shopping guide.
  • Contact your favourite 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.
  • Donate to help HSI end animal testing for cosmetics in India and worldwide.
  • Sign Up
  • Take Action
  • Take the global pledge to Be Cruelty-Free Sign Now