Who Will Be Last In Line In The Beauty Industry To Be Cruelty-Free?

5 Min Read |

The new breed of consumer is increasingly aware of brands and their ideologies, thanks to social media. They’re accustomed to seeing #crueltyfree campaigns on facebook and Instagram and the hashtag displayed as a brand selling point. But after years of campaigning, is the beauty industry cruelty-free? And which companies are still dragging their heels?

In 1988, PETA conducted an investigation into animal-testing laboratory and the video footage taken at the time showed horrific scenes taken during tests for cosmetic and household products. Now, 30 years later, there has been enormous progress. Because of efforts by PETA and consumer pressure, the number of cruelty-free companies, listed on PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies cruelty-free website, has risen from just nine in 1987 to over 3,600 today.

Cosmetics testing on animals in the US has almost completely ended and is illegal in many countries around the world, including the 28 nations of the European Union (in 2013 the EU introduced a ban on all cosmetics developed using animal testing).

“When we buy products from a company that tests on animals, we are voting for cruelty, and no lipstick or eyeshadow is worth that.”

But some companies still sell their products into China, where tests are still required for all imported cosmetics; so China has become the focus of efforts to rule out the practise. Companies that manufacture outside of China must still have their products tested on animals. Indeed, The Chinese government currently carries out mandatory testing for imported products, irrespective of the wishes of the company. China is, however, moving towards alternatives to animal testing, aided by non-profit organisations and cosmetic companies that training Chinese scientists in alternative methods.

Japan is another tricky market; although the laws do not require animal testing, neither do they ban it. One of the key reasons being that it’s always been done this way. The European ban caught many Japanese firms by surprise, but now Japan is looking at ways to phase out testing on animals.

According to PETA estimates, 100 million animals still die in laboratories because of animal testing. Animals of several species are subjected to a variety of testing methods including having chemicals applied to skin or eyes to test for skin irritation, force feeding/drinking and forced inhalation of substances.

Many companies have taken a stand against animal testing. Personal care giant, Unilever, announced it’s support for the #BeCrueltyFree campaign to end animal testing for cosmetics around the world within five years.

Unilever, known for popular brands such as Dove, Degree and TRESemmé is the second largest beauty company globally, and the first of the sector’s top 10, to actively support legislative reform aimed to prohibit animal testing for cosmetics. The company has said that it hopes it will be a step towards the banning of animal testing in 50 major beauty markets across the world by 2023.

“This is a tipping point in the fight to finally ban new animal testing of cosmetics and their ingredients and we applaud Unilever for throwing their weight behind this legislation in the U.S. and beyond,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund

Several major brands have also chosen to take a stand, from Penneys to Inglot. And celebrities, like Ricky Gervais and Kat Von D, who is well known as an animal rights activist, have advised consumers to look carefully at what brands they choose to buy. “When we buy products from a company that tests on animals, we are voting for cruelty, and no lipstick or eyeshadow is worth that.”

But sometimes the lines are not so clear. When this reporter did a search on the PETA Beauty Without Bunnies website for Marc Jacobs Beauty, the response was ‘This company is cruelty-free! It does NOT test on animals’. However, when doing a similar search using the term Marc Jacobs Fragrances the response was ‘Warning! This company DOES test on animals’, and a suggestion to ‘Urge Marc Jacobs fragrances to go cruelty-free through social media!’

There are alternative methods of testing available that provide more realistic results. According to Cruelty Free International, almost every type of human cell can now be grown in a laboratory, giving companies a viable alternative to using animals. Another alternative is to animal testing are human skin equivalent systems, which can be used to measure the corrosive and irritation effects on skin of chemicals used in cosmetic products.

Companies who still use animals testing for their products will be open to question in this more transparent consumer environment.

The consumer trend towards caring for the environment has extended to include animals, and consumers can now find out instantly whether the brand they are about to buy into is cruelty free or not.

Websites like Cruelty Free Kitty and Cruelty Free International have made it much easier for consumers to identify which brands are against animal testing – as well as those who have yet to stop. Leaping Bunny, PETA and Choose Cruelty Free are the three major cruelty-free organisations providing lists of cruelty-free brands. PETA focuses on North America and Choose Cruelty-Free on Australia. Leaping Bunny is the only internationally recognised one at present.

For those seeking information on mobile there is the Bunny Free app where you can learn about various brands and products, while the Cruelty Cutter app allows consumers to scan barcodes to check a brand’s status.

While there are some brands who use animals to test their products and use various loopholes to get their products sold, certification is on a voluntary basis, so not all cruelty-free brands are certified and many ethical brands can slip through the net. Consumers looking for cruelty-free will look for a Cruelty-free symbol on the packaging or check an app.

With more brands in a variety of price brackets embracing a cruelty-free ethos, it is becoming easier than ever for concerned consumers to switch their routine. Although there is still a long way to go, (80% of countries still accept cosmetic testing on animals) the trend is set. No one wants to be known as the last major cosmetics company to still cause unnecessary animal suffering. It’s clear that it will be very difficult to run a cosmetics business in the future and still engage in animal testing as more and more markets move beyond reach.

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