Q&A: Cosmetic Testing in Canada

Humane Society International

  • HSI is calling on Canada to “Be Cruelty-Free”. iStock

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 must not sell its products in countries that require animal testing; it must 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: Is animal testing for cosmetics a legal requirement in Canada?

A: No. Canada’s Food and Drugs Act prohibits the sale of any cosmetic containing harmful ingredients or contaminants, but does not require that animal testing be conducted to demonstrate safety.

Q: Have any countries banned animal testing for cosmetics?

A: Yes. Animal testing for cosmetics has been banned throughout the 27 member countries of the European Union since 2009, and the sale of cosmetic products or ingredients subject to new animal testing after March 2013 is also illegal. 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 can companies ensure safety without animal testing?

A: Safe existing ingredients are the key. Hundreds of 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 from among nearly 20,000 widely available raw ingredients that have been tested in the past, instead of purchasing newly developed chemicals that will also have been newly animal-tested. The safety of new product formulations made up from well known existing cosmetic ingredients can be assured using available non-animal testing methods.

Q: Why do companies still test cosmetics on animals if it’s not legally required?

A: Some companies believe that “innovation” requires the creation or use of new chemistries, which are invariably subject to new animal testing, either by or on behalf of the cosmetic manufacturer, or more commonly, by the specialty chemical producer itself. And multinational companies that sell cosmetics in such as China may be required to conduct new animal testing to meet the requirements of national authorities.

Q: What animal tests are carried out on cosmetics?

A: Newly-developed raw ingredients may be subject to the same sorts of animal tests as any other chemicals. This can 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 hazards, 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. At the end of a test the animals are killed, normally by asphyxiation, neck-breaking or decapitation. Pain relief is not provided.

Q: Besides animal welfare, are there other arguments against testing on animals?

A: Yes, animal tests also have scientific limitations because different species can respond differently when exposed to the same chemicals. Consequently, results from animal tests may not be relevant to humans, under- or over-estimating real-world hazards to people. In addition, results from animal tests can be quite variable and difficult to interpret. Unreliable and non-predictive animal tests mean consumer safety cannot be guaranteed.

Q: What are the alternatives to animal testing?

A: Cosmetics companies can stop animal testing immediately and still produce new, safe and exciting beauty products, by manufacturing the cruelty-free way.

Firstly, companies can use ingredients that are already known to be safe, of which there are thousands. These ingredients have been tested in the past and don’t require new testing. This is how so many socially conscious companies have been able to swear off animal testing.

Secondly, companies can use non-animal tests where new data need to be generated. 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.

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. For example, there are a number of skin tests available that use human reconstructed skin, such as EpiDerm, as wells as the “3T3 NRU” test for sunlight-induced “phototoxicity”, and the Bovine Cornea Opacity and Permeability test for eye corrosion.

Q: What’s being done to end cosmetics animal testing in Canada?

A: Humane Society International has teamed up with Animal Alliance of Canada to launch the Canadian arm of Be Cruelty-Free—the largest global campaign to end cosmetics animal cruelty. Together we’re working to:

  • Change Canadian law to ban animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients, and to end the sale of newly animal tested beauty products from other parts of the world.
  • Promote modern science, championing the development of new non-animal tests and training regulators and companies in their use.
  • Educate consumers, raising awareness about animal testing and how to shop cruelty-free.
  • Work with companies to help them move away from animal testing, and partnering with cruelty-free companies to lobby for change.
  • Build an unstoppable national 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 and help HSI put an end to cosmetics animal cruelty:

  • Sign the Be Cruelty-Free pledge to show your support for Canadian ban on animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients.
  • Donate to help HSI end animal testing for cosmetics in India and worldwide.
  • 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, or download the iTunes app for your smart phone.
  • 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.
  • Make some noise—follow us on Twitter @HSI_Canada and tweet about the campaign using hashtag #BeCrueltyFree.

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