China appears on track to end animal testing for imported ‘ordinary’ cosmetics

Humane Society International says move would spare many thousands of animals

Humane Society International / Global

WASHINGTON—In a move applauded by global animal protection leader Humane Society International, China’s State Council has finalized regulations that significantly modernize cosmetic safety assessment and lay critical groundwork for removal of the longstanding requirement to animal test all imported ordinary cosmetics, a practice which in the past decade has consumed between 50,000 and more than 120,000 rabbits each year. Effective Jan. 1, 2021, imported ordinary cosmetics such as shampoo, blusher, mascara and perfume may no longer have to be animal tested for eye and skin irritation in Chinese laboratories. Ordinary cosmetics make up the bulk of personal care products imported to China; so-called “special” cosmetics will still require animal testing.

Kitty Block, CEO of Humane Society International, which leads the global #BeCrueltyFree campaign and has long supported training in non-animal test methods in China, said: “We are delighted that China has taken this important step toward cruelty-free cosmetics regulation. China remains one of the few countries in the world to require animal tests for beauty products, so removing this requirement for everyday cosmetics would be a game changer for cruelty-free beauty. The era of cosmetic animal testing is nearly at an end, and through our global #BeCrueltyFree campaign we are passing laws in key cosmetic markets to ensure that no animal is ever again made to suffer in the name of beauty. We are also excited to be working with brand leaders and scientists in the beauty sector to build trust, acceptance and national capacity in animal-free approaches to cosmetic safety assessment.”

The new Regulations on Cosmetics Supervision and Administration encourages and supports cosmetics producers and operators in adopting modern science and technology and advanced management standards to improve the quality and safety of cosmetics. Validated and internationally recognized alternatives to animal testing are readily available to companies, and, through the Animal-Free Safety Assessment Collaboration, Humane Society International and our industry and NGO partners are developing and delivering free training resources to help countries increase their capacity to make cosmetic safety decisions without reliance on new animal test data.

The regulation also provides for routine post-market sampling inspections by provincial authorities, including for cosmetics with reported safety problems. It is unclear whether such inspections and investigations could involve animal testing. This uncertainty has long been a barrier to cruelty-free beauty brands entering the Chinese market.

Worldwide, nearly 40 countries have outlawed animal testing for cosmetics, driven in large part by the #BeCrueltyFree campaign led by HSI and our national affiliates and partners. Today

HSI is leading simultaneous legislative efforts in Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the Association of South-East Asian Nations, with the goal of having robust bans introduced by the end of 2023.


Notes to editors:

  1. Cosmetics used for hair and skin coloring, perming, sun protection, anti-hair loss, children’s products and cosmetics claiming new effects are termed ‘special’ cosmetics and are still subject to animal testing requirements. Cosmetics other than special cosmetics are ordinary cosmetics.
  2. China new cosmetic import registrations between 2010 and 2013 reflected between 6,000 and 13,606 government approvals for non-special-use (ordinary) cosmetics. Each of these products would have been subject to 3 animal tests, each using 3 rabbits (6,000 x 3 x 3 = ~54,000 rabbits in 2010; 13,606 x 3 x 3 = ~122,454 rabbits in 2013).
  3. HSI’s #BeCrueltyFree campaign was instrumental in securing cosmetic animal testing bans in India, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Guatemala, Switzerland and seven states in Brazil. A parallel effort in the U.S., led by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund, has secured three state-level bans, together with an unprecedented agreement with the industry trade group Personal Care Products Council on language for a federal bill.


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