When going to the beauty department of any store, there is one common question sales associates usually get. Is this product tested on animals? An easier way to get an answer is to go on the Internet and look up your favourite brands.
Animal testing is a hot button issue. In these tests, animals are forced to inhale, or are injected with, substances tested for toxicity. They are also maimed, suffer extreme pain, and are killed, dissected, and then thrown away like last week’s trash.
However, it can be more complicated. Ryan Hauling, manager of college campaigns and outreach for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said one of the main reasons there are still companies on the “test on animals” list because they sell to China.
In China, there is a law that prohibits sale of cosmetics unless they have undergone animal testing by their officials.
“Thankfully we have had some companies that have chosen to pull out of China once we did make them aware that they would be pulled from our (‘do not test on animals’) list,” Hauling said.
He also said some companies, such as Paul Mitchell and Urban Decay, decided to cancel plans to sell their products in China for this reason. They don’t want to be put on the “test on animals” list.
With the recent ban in the European Union (EU) of any new cosmetics products containing ingredients tested on animals, the issue has become more apparent to not only companies but also consumers. This came into effect on March 11.
“This is a great opportunity for Europe to set an example of responsible innovation in cosmetics without any compromise on consumer safety,” Tonio Borg, EU’s top official on health and consumer issues, said in an article on CTV News’ website.
Still, other companies have recently been added to the tests on animals list because they have decided they want to be in the Chinese market, such as Avon, Estee Lauder and Mary Kay.
But how do companies get on the list in the first place?
“We do contact the companies and we also ask their representatives to sign a pledge for us stating that they do not conduct any animal experimentation,” Hauling said.
PETA doesn’t have the time to investigate every single company that makes cosmetics, so companies are asked to sign the pledge stating that they do not test on animals and neither does their suppliers.
There has been some controversy though over companies that are or aren’t on the list. Avon, for example, was removed from the list due to expansion into China. But Cheryl, a representative for the company who wouldn’t give her last name, said in an email they do not conduct animal testing on their products to ensure the safety of the product for humans.
“In fact, Avon was the first major cosmetics company to end animal testing on products more than 20 years ago,” she said.
However, she also mentioned Avon operates in over 100 countries and that some countries, mainly China, require animal testing for legal purposes.
The reason Avon does not stop selling their products in these counties is because they think they will be able to affect change.
“Abandoning a market does not help bring about a solution,” Cheryl said.
Avon has continued to support research for alternative methods of testing products. They have partnered with The Institute of the In Vitro Sciences (IIVS), a non-profit organization committed to advancements of alternate testing methods, and serves on the scientific advisory panel of IIVS. PETA has also started working with IIVS.
Tiffany, consumer response representative for M.A.C. who wouldn’t give her last name, said they are working to eliminate animal testing around the world, even though they are on the “test on animals” list.
“Our long-standing commitment to end animal testing has not changed,” she said in an email. “We do not test our products or ingredients on animals, nor do we ask others to test on our behalf, except where required by law.”
Not all companies have lost their values though. Some have stuck to their guns by keeping their products animal friendly. This includes Limited Brands Inc., the company that creates products for Bath and Body Works, Victoria’s Secret and Warm Barn Candle Company.
The issue these companies came across at one point was the wording on their packaging. Some people believed that when a product had a label that read, “This finished product not tested on animals,” meant that the ingredients could have been. However, Allysen Paulin, a customer relations representative from Bath and Body Works, put this issue to rest in an email.
“We want you to know that we believe all living creatures deserve respect and we would never think of testing any of our products on animals,” she said. “Likewise, we don’t ask anyone who may be helping us develop or make our products to conduct these kinds of tests on our behalf.”
Other companies that take the issue seriously offer products that are cruelty free. This means not supporting, causing or contributing to animal exploitation or suffering.
The Body Shop is one of those stores. And though their company has never tested their products on animals, it doesn’t stop there. Even their employees feel strongly about the issue.
Nicola Martin, a manager at the Yorkdale Mall location, said since 1976, The Body Shop has taken a strong stance against animal testing. And in 1996, they upped their fight by launching a campaign aimed at obtaining four million signatures, which they wanted to present to the European Commission to get them to find alternate methods for animal testing. Their fight has finally been completed with the recent EU ban. And the employees continue their fight today.
“I feel outraged and it inspires me to do more,” Martin said about countries that demand animal testing. “We want to really get behind and support Cruelty Free International.”
Cruelty Free International is one of the world’s most respected animal rights and protection organizations.
In fact, PETA encourages customers on their website to look for the bunny when shopping for cosmetics. If you see the bunny, that means the products are cruelty free. Though companies have several different forms of the logo, the leaping bunny is the most recognizable.