Animal Testing on Consumer Products is Still Common Practice: Are You Unknowingly Supporting this Trade?

Animal Testing on Consumer Products is Still Common Practice: Are You Unknowingly Supporting this Trade?


Know that the same spark of life that is within you, is within all of our animal friends, the desire to live is the same within all of us ― Rai ArenSecret of the Sands

We live in an age of increasing technological innovation and sophistication. But the use of animals as test subjects for cosmetics and household products continues, despite the primitive nature of animal research.

Animal testing should have been cast aside a century ago, but incredibly it lingers on, relying on discredited assumptions to justify its existence. More sleight-of-hand than actual science, animal research has gained legitimacy by drawing crude analogies between species, and then making bold declarations based on those comparisons.

The assumption that animals were miniature versions of humans may have seemed sensible in the past. But modern science has revealed profound differences between human beings and other species: differences in anatomy, metabolism, digestive processes, organ structure and function, and DNA function and repair, just to name a few of the distinctions. Animal research was always irrelevant but now it has been rendered obsolete, whether its strident supporters realize it or not.

The validity of animal testing has been challenged and repeatedly refuted by medical experts who’ve actually looked at the evidence and evaluated testing practices objectively. Yet, tragically, hundreds of millions of animals still suffer and die in cosmetics and household product research laboratories each year, sacrificed to serve the interests of multinational corporations that refuse to modernize their research methodologies.

Not only are these innocent beings being exploited in this market, they are equally being exploited and experimented on in Medical Research. To learn about animal testing in Medical Research read our article Are You Supporting Animal Cruelty? The Cruel Facts About Animal Testing In Medical Research

But the truth cannot be suppressed forever, and a fight worth winning (the fight against animal testing) has begun to have an impact.

The European Union Leads the Way

The European Union is leading the way in the movement to rid the planet of animal testing for consumer products. In 2013, the EU officially adopted legislation banning the use of animals in cosmetics safety and development testing, based on the availability of numerous superior alternatives (and motivated at least in part by its citizens’ moral outrage over the continuation of animal testing, as EU representatives openly acknowledged)

The ban makes it illegal to test new cosmetic products on animals, but it also prohibits the sale of cosmetics that contain ingredients tested on animals regardless of nation of origin. This last stipulation is important, because it closes any potential loopholes by extending the ban to cover imports from nations were animal testing is still legal, most prominently the United States and China

This means that companies all round the world will have to stop animal testing on their products and ingredients if they want to sell their cosmetics in the EU. This is a great victory for our animal friends.

Despite shrill and hysterical pronouncements and predictions of doom and gloom by certain actors in the cosmetics industry (and by the usual suspects in the pro-animal research lobby, of course) the EU ban has done nothing to endanger the public or slow the pace of new product development. In fact, the ban has proven so popular and successful that a number of nations have now followed suit.

Nearly 40 countries currently prohibit animal testing in cosmetics research, manufacturing and retail, including:

  • New Zealand
  • Australia [as of July 2020]
  • Switzerland
  • India
  • Iceland
  • Guatemala
  • Norway
  • Israel
  • Turkey
  • Serbia
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • California [recently became the first state in America to ban the sale of animal tested cosmetics].
  • Click here to see the most current timeline of Animal Testing Regulations and recent bans.

Encouraged by the success of their initiative, in 2018 the EU representatives adopted a resolution calling for a global ban on animal testing for cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients by 2023, and they have pledged to support these efforts in any way they can.

Unfortunately, the EU’s ban on animal testing applies only to cosmetics and has not been extended to toiletries, cleaning products or other household items that contain potentially hazardous chemicals. As of now, India and Israel are the only countries to ban testing for a broader range of household products. You can read more about India banning animal testing on both cosmetics and household products [here].

But the apparently limited scope of the present campaign against animal testing is not cause for pessimism. The dominoes can only tumble one at a time, and if the cosmetic industry is forced to abandon animal testing other household products industries won’t be far behind.

At present 80 percent of the world’s nations still allow animal testing in the cosmetic industry, along with the marketing of animal-tested products and ingredients. But the fact that 20 percent of nations have banned these practices in such a short period of time offers ample reason for activists and consumers to feel hopeful.

Spotlight on the Holdouts: China and the United States

While the move to ban animal testing on cosmetics, and on household products in general, is picking up steam, the planet’s two remaining economic juggernauts have yet to follow the EU’s lead. In the United States and China, animal testing in the cosmetics industry is still common and legal, and unless and until these two colossus nations are brought on board, full success for the anti-animal testing movement will remain impossible.

In the United States, jurisdiction over cosmetics belongs to the federal government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is notoriously beholden to various corporate interests. There is a revolving door between government agencies and the industries they are supposed to regulate in the U.S., as administrators and even scientists move back and forth between private employers and “public service” positions. Consequently, U.S. regulatory policies tend to skew heavily in favor of business, as organizations like the FDA adopt a “hands-off” approach that basically allows industries to police themselves.

As a result, animal testing on cosmetics and other household products is allowed in the United States and still widely practiced, although it is not legally mandated and many companies are rushing to embrace alternative testing methods in response to customer demand. Animals are supposed to receive some type of protection under a piece of legislation called the Animal Welfare Act, but this toothless law exempts 95 percent of laboratory animals from coverage (including rats, mice, birds, and reptiles, the most commonly used and abused species) and requires minimal care for the rest.

In the United States, intellectual and cultural inertia likely explains some of the failure to abandon animal testing in consumer products development, especially among scientists and academicians. The power and influence of the multinational corporations that make billions off the suffering of animals in research laboratories undoubtedly factors in as well: in the U.S. the ability of entrenched interests to frighten politicians and thwart progressive regulation relating to animals, the environment, health care, worker protection and social welfare is especially notable. In fact, some U.S. Congress people are so subservient to corporate animal exploiters that they frequently attempt to pass laws criminalizing not animal abuse, but the actions of those who oppose or try to expose it.

Coming from a nation that is so advanced it is hard to comprehend that companies still use animal testing. Especially when science has developed 3D tissue cells stemmed from human cells, which ultimately makes this testing on human cells a much more accurate method. It’s baffling to wonder why some companies still refuse to take advantage of this wonderful technology.

It is multi-million dollar companies like Johnson and Johnson that won’t budge towards more ethical testing, and sadly it comes down to one thing – money and greed. These ridiculously wealthy companies are afraid of losing money through consumer lawsuits; even though  animal testing is not an effective defense against consumer sues.

Nevertheless, a 2013 poll revealed that 73 percent of Americans are in favor of phasing out animal testing for cosmetics, and that opposition may eventually gain enough traction to force businesses to change. At least for now, however, animal testing in the cosmetic and household products industries is still widespread, and unless U.S. companies or multinational companies active in the U.S. market specifically state that they don’t use animal testing, it’s a safe bet to assume they do.

China, unfortunately, is lagging behind even the United States. The planet’s emerging global economic superpower doesn’t just tolerate animal research, it actually requires it for all cosmetic products imported by foreign companies, as well as for certain types of cosmetics produced domestically for domestic consumption (so-called “special use” products, which include deodorants, sunscreens, hair dyes, hair growth products, perm products and skin whitening creams). Only “ordinary” cosmetics produced by Chinese companies for consumption inside China (makeup, fragrances, and skin, hair and nail products) do not require animal testing, but even here the animal testing mentality is so deeply rooted in the Chinese cosmetic industry that the use of animals remains rampant.

Thanks to China’s rapid economic expansion, its products are now widely available everywhere, and that is something that consumers in countries that don’t prohibit the sale of products tested on animals should keep in mind as they make their purchasing decisions.

Despite the current status of animal testing in China, there is room for hope. In 2014 the Chinese did make some modifications in their animal testing laws, in response to domestic and international pressure. In general, China has shown a willingness to embrace the future and respond to the world’s interest in more sustainable and ethical technologies (China has become the world’s leading manufacturer and exporter of solar panels, for example), and once they do decide to begin phasing out animal testing they may very well become a leader in the creation of alternatives.

Effective Alternatives to Animal Testing are Available

Animals have been used to study a multitude of possible side effects that might arise from the use of previously untested ingredients scheduled for inclusion in cosmetics, personal care and household products. Among other things, scientists have used animals to test for toxicity, carcinogenic qualities, skin and eye irritation or corrosion, effects on reproductive and development processes, and the potential to cause genetic mutations.

Generally, testing procedures subject animals to extreme doses of chemicals, usually in ways that cause enormous pain and suffering (with anesthesia seldom used) and lead to the intentional killing or incidental deaths of the test participants. In addition to their inherent brutality, these massive exposures bear no resemblance to real-life situations and often produce highly dubious results, and anything they might reveal could be uncovered more quickly and easily using alternatives that don’t involve hocus-pocus or pseudo-scientific extrapolation between species.

Fortunately, excellent alternatives to animal testing exist, and regardless of the laws in their countries many companies have abandoned animal testing in favor of cutting-edge research methods. R&D funds specifically targeted to find new and better methods for product and medical research are more available than ever before, in both the private and public spheres, and they are producing impressive results.

Many alternative methods and techniques rely on human cell cultures or tissues as a replacement for animals, as researchers who specialize in this field know that testing chemicals on human biological samples will produce results that can be applied more accurately to the human organism.

There are dozens of these new testing procedures already in use, with dozens more in the development stage. Some examples of these in vitro (test tube) innovations using human cell or tissue samples include:

  • Organs-on-chips. Developed at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute, organs-on-chips blend microchip technology with actual human cells that have been carefully arranged to recreate the structure and functioning of human organs. Organs-on-chips can be used in toxicity testing, and are likely to prove useful in a range of experimental applications as familiarity with the technology grows.
  • Embryonic stem cell test (EST). Using human stem cells as a replacement for pregnant animals and their newborns, the EST test charts the effects of toxic chemicals on reproductive processes more rapidly and without causing any pain or suffering.
  • Mattek’s EpiDerm tissue model. EpiDerm is a 3D representation constructed from human cells that replicates several important characteristics of human skin. This precision offered by this model is important for allergy, irritation and corrosivity testing, and no animal model can possibly match the accuracy of its results.
  • EpiOcular cornea models. Human cells are used to replicate the structure of a corneal surface, opening new possibilities for testing the toxic and corrosive effects of chemicals on the human eye. EpiOcular, and other similar models, are a vastly preferable alternative to the notorious Draize eye test, a grim and despicable practice that involves dripping caustic chemicals into the eyes of rabbits.

It is important to emphasize that this is just a small sampling of what’s available to cosmetic, personal care and household product manufacturers that want to abandon animal testing.

Computer modeling and simulation is another promising avenue for the replacement of animal testing on consumer products. Through extensive and detailed modeling of human anatomy, physiology, organ functioning and genetic activity, obtained through comprehensive study that involves the most advanced and sophisticated technologies available, scientists can determine the potential deleterious effects of most substances, based on all available information about their chemical structures and their effects (or the effects of related substances) on the human body.

Human volunteers are another source of invaluable data on the actual effects of new cosmetic, personal care or household products and their ingredients. This is an area where researchers know they must tread carefully, to make sure testing protocols are safe and put no one at risk of painful or unpleasant side effects.

Of course, we are already relying on human volunteers—and unwitting ones at that—when products are released into the marketplace following safety tests carried out exclusively on animals. Despite assurances to the contrary, no one really knows what will happen to early users of these products, given the flawed science and un-projectable results that animal testing produces.

The reluctance to progress beyond animal testing is unforgivable considering that there are more superior non-animal tests widely available today. Donated human corneas can be used instead of brutally measuring how long it takes a chemical to burn away the cornea of a rabbit’s eye. Human skin cells can be easily grown and ordered when testing for skin irritation. These and various other similar tests are much more accurate at measuring human reactions, not to mention considerably cheaper and faster than animal tests are.

So where is the logic? I am perplexed, baffled and disgusted at these companies who continue to test on animals.

What You Can Do

You, as a consumer, have great power to sabotage the best laid plans of the animal testing racket.

Your cruelty-free spending habits will send a message, that is guaranteed. As you and others shift your consumer practices to harmonize with your values, eventually it will become clear what is happening, and companies that sell market cosmetics, personal care products and household products will be forced to alter their behavior in response to evolving customer expectations.

But there’s more to it than just putting pressure on companies that currently test on animals. If you buy cosmetics, personal care items and household products exclusively from companies that neither test on animals nor use ingredients that were tested on animals elsewhere, you’ll be on the side of the angels and there is great personal satisfaction in that, regardless of how long it takes for animal testing to fade into oblivion.

Today there are many companies that don’t test on animals, and more and more are being added to the list every month. You should check out PETA’s database of companies that don’t test on animals, and request a free copy of PETA’s global Cruelty-Free Shopping Guide to find cruelty-free versions of all the products you could ever use or need. Cruelty-Free International is another outstanding organization that publicizes businesses that don’t test on animals, and they can provide an extensive list of companies certified as cruelty-free under their Leaping Bunny programme.

To stay up-to-date on current issues and the progress in the fight against animal testing and other forms of exploitation, it’s a great idea to sign up for the PETA newsletter, or alternatively to get mobile alerts.

Staying aware and active is the best contribution you can make in the struggle to overcome the power and influence of the animal research industry, and your decisions as a consumer are every bit as important as any other actions you take.

Take Action Today

Let us stop relying on big organisations and the legal system to make a change against animal cruelty and the barbaric practices undertaken all over the world. We, as individuals, have a key role to play in making this happen. What matters is not just identifying the cruelty, but what you do about it. Many people notice the brutality and are disheartened but don’t stand up for these animals. Today, make a commitment to yourself to make a little change. Here are some ways:

Vote with your dollars and buy cruelty free: Many beauty products today have the ‘not tested on animals logo‘, unfortunately this is not always the case. While many companies themselves do not physically test on animals, the suppliers that they source their product ingredients from often test on animals. Then there are the countries that require all products to be sold in that country to be tested on animals, so the authorities of that country will then run their own tests and test products on animals before they approve of it to go on the shelves.  Now while the company itself is not testing on animals, there is a high chance they are involved in practices that result in animal testing.  So how can you be sure if a product is truly tested on animals or not? Read our cruelty free guide here

Stop supporting brands that sell to China:Big named brands such as Bobbie Brown, Mac and Aveena are claiming to be cruelty free. The bottom line is that if they are selling their products to China to be stocked on the shelves in department stores and beauty counters then they are testing their products on animals. Current legislation in China requires all cosmetics that are made internationally to be tested on animals before being sold in-store in China. Even if you buy a product from a company that claims to be not tested on animals, if they supply their product to China then they support Animal Testing. This is why you will find many ethical companies such as LUSH still refusing to sell to China.  If you are serious about making a stand against animal testing then you should ditch all companies that sell to China  until China changes its regulations.

If you are in China , either buy a Chinese made and owned ‘ordinary’ cosmetic that is certified  ‘cruelty-free’ or purchase a certified ‘cruelty free’ product via an international website and have them posted to you. If you are outside of China then ban all cosmetics that sell to China – even the ones who don’t test on animals.

To ensure that your favourite brand isn’t supporting Animal Testing in China first check the PETA data base [here] and do some research into what brands Chinese Department Stores are currently stocking. One of my all-time favourite resource is the Shop Ethical Guide [here]

Use your voice to speak up about the issues: At an individual level, it’s important that you advocate animal rights and educate those around you. We all have a circle of influence, use yours to help raise awareness for this barbaric practice. It truly is a privilege to have freedom of speak, rise strong, and use your voice to speak up for those that can’t. Lead awareness campaigns, have cupcake drives, hand out educational flyers, blog about it, invite others to discuss the topic or share your thoughts on social media.

Raise your opinion, suggestions and concerns with decision-makers: Educate yourself about the ethical and scientific aspects of animal use in research and teaching, and then ensure you let our elected leaders and decision makers know of your views. For further information on these issues visit Humane Research Australia.  Talk to them about enhancing protection laws for animals involved in research

Don’t underestimate the power of calling your local government representative or the offices of companies that still use animal testing. Let them know what you think of the issue, then present to them a positive solution. Never let your anger get the better of you, it is best to address these situations calmly and positively. Alsowrite letters, articles, petitions, etc. to make people aware of this barbaric practice against animals.Sign petitions and help support people who are taking a stand against the violence. Animal activism works and there are many success stories.

Make a stand at school and university: If you study at a university you should contact the administrative council and suggest less primitive and more productive teaching methods than experimenting on animals. Visit Interniche — a great organisation dedicated to the adoption of humane education techniques, and including some great resources.

Donate kindly: When donating to a charity, ensure it is not one that supports the use of animals in research. See the list of charities which have adopted a ‘no animal testing’ policy.

Donate your body to science: A lesser-known way to support the replacement of animals in experimentation is through posthumous body donation. Here are two charities dedicated to providing valuable human bodies, organs, and tissues to medical researchers and students.

Consider going vegan: Unbiased research is out – and it is more evident than ever that adopting a vegan lifestyle guarantees mind and body health. Going vegan is not only good for your health it also helps the evironment, our animal friends and contributes to fighting poverty. 

Make daily choices that are kinder to animals: Everyday we make hundreds of decisions that impact the livelihood of people, the planet and animals. Take the time to look into every decision you make so that you are aware of its impact from going to the circus, visiting zoos, buying pets, eating meat to riding elephants. There is so much animal cruelty in every corner of the globe. To guide you in this process read How To Make Kinder Choices To Animals Everyday

EXTRA RESOURCE: So what’s the current deal in China? A guide to understanding China’s animal testing laws

Now for the good news, with the help of funding from PETA China, China did make some changes in 2014. With these changes, 10,000 animals a year will be spared from being tested on! However the changes also created a lot of confusion about whether companies making or selling their products in China should be considered cruelty-free. The basic outline is:

1. Foreign imported ordinary* cosmetics – still require animal testing
2. Domestically produced ordinary* cosmetics – animal testing is no longer an absolute requirement
3. Both foreign imported and domestically produced ‘special use’** cosmetics – still require animal testing
4. Domestically produced ordinary cosmetics for foreign export only – have never required animal testing
5. Any cosmetic bought in China via a foreign e-commerce website – has never required animal testing.

*Ordinary cosmetics include make up, fragrances, skin, hair and nail care products.** ‘special use’ cosmetics include sun-screens, hair dyes, deodorant, skin whitening creams, hair growth creams.

Please share this post and raise the awareness – Lets stop animal testing all together. Animals don’t have a voice – we need to be their voice.