A look at the dark practices behind the scenes of the world’s largest cosmetic companies.
As the cuddly bunny heard footsteps approaching his small, confined cage, he began fearing his fate. What would he have to endure now? Already having his fur shaved off and skin burnt from poisonous chemicals due to the Toxicology test, he didn’t want to suffer anymore. Could it be the Draize test? This involves applying liquid to the eyes and waiting for about three weeks to see how much they have been burnt and irritated. This is the fate of an astonishing 100 million animals around the globe – and it’s all in the name of beauty.
Yes, it’s true that women love makeup. It enhances our features and makes us feel better about ourselves. But what is the real cost? The last thought that crosses our minds while cosmetics shopping is our fluffy friends. With no voices to be heard, many cute and cuddly creatures are prone to horrific scientific tests every day of their lives.
While the number of cruelty-free companies is growing, there are still many brands out there that continue this practice. This is partly due to government regulations in countries such as Brazil and China, which require imported cosmetics to be tested on animals before being released to the public. Cosmetic testing on animals has been banned in Europe, India and Israel; and recently Japan and USA have been under pressure to ban this practice.
Raising awareness about this issue and campaigning for change hasn’t happened overnight. Global cosmetic giant The Body Shop started campaigning against animal testing back in 1991 and still, 22 years later, has not given up the fight for animal rights. “It is our belief that if more customers actually knew what was happening, they would actively avoid endorsement of brands that participate in such cruel and unnecessary behaviour,” says National Marketing and PR Manager Shannon Chrisp.
They’re not the only ones. Other big brands like LUSH have also spoken out in the defence of animals. Not-for-profit organisations such as Choose Cruelty Free and PETA are also constantly trying to get the word out there. “[We] campaign in a number of ways to end cosmetics tests on animals, including raising public awareness, working with government officials and exposing companies and institutions that are continuing to test cosmetics on animals,” says PETA Australia Campaign Coordinator Claire Fryer.
Perhaps surprisingly to some, Australia still allows animal testing. “The government should follow the example set by EU, India and Israel, which have banned the importation and sale of cosmetics that have been tested on animals,” Ms Fryer says. While we have been close to changing the laws, there was a step backwards last year when the Federal Labor Government lost office. Former Labor Health Minister Tanya Plibersek promised to raise the issue of banning cosmetic testing on animals. However, after Labor lost the election, their promises became null and void. But the fight isn’t over yet. “When the Labor Party was in government, we sent about 130,000 postcards [to them] and we just keep at it,” says Liz Jackson from Choose Cruelty Free.
According to Ms Chrisp, there are alternatives to animal testing. “[These include] ‘irritection’ [an eyes and skin test which does not require a living thing], a replacement for the Draize test, and human volunteer trials such as skin patch tests to assist us in ensuring safety and efficacy,” she said.
Ms Chrisp said there are always new alternatives being found to replace the inhumane practice of animal testing. “More recently, [there is] the breakthrough of ‘Episkin’ technology – a synthetic human skin developed to replace animal testing throughout the cosmetics industry once and for all,” she said.
Cosmetic testing on animals costs billions of dollars per year. When scientists prove it to be ineffective, and with so many alternatives, the real question is why we still use animals for countless tests. “We’ve always said actually that companies test on animals so if they’re sued then they can say that they’ve tested on animals,” says Liz Jackson. There are certain tests which must be done on animals, as they aren’t suited to be tested on humans for the risk of severe issues.
“My argument is, if it’s that toxic, why are we putting it on our skin?” says Liz Jackson.
As a consumer, is there anything you can do to help animals? Yes! For starters, you can choose to purchase cruelty-free products. But a word of warning: just because it says cruelty-free doesn’t mean it hasn’t been tested on animals. “Since current labelling laws allow companies to mislead Australian consumers, the public may be buying products that it believes to be cruelty-free, when it may in fact be supporting companies that continue to test on animals, despite the availability of humane non-animal alternatives,” Claire Fryer said.
For example, if individual ingredients are tested on animals but if the final product has not been tested on animals, the product can be labelled “cruelty-free”. The only way to know if a product is 100 per cent cruelty-free is if it has a “Choose Cruelty Free” rabbit logo. This guarantees that none of the ingredients have been tested on animals, and they do not contain animal derived ingredients. For the full list of accredited, cruelty-free products, see here.
You can help by campaigning with organisations and brands such as PETA, The Body Shop, Choose Cruelty Free and other initiatives around the world. Also send emails to brands that test on animals and let them know that cosmetic testing on animals is the reason you refuse to purchase their products. There are many ways to get involved in banning animal testing, whether it’s writing a letter to the government or letting your friends know about the procedure. Every step counts!
So, before you go and purchase cosmetics, think about our tiny friends that need us to speak up for them. Because without us, they won’t get the freedom they deserve. – Basmah Qazi
Top image from Gaiaos Photobucket Photostream