(ANIMAL TESTING) After decades of lobbying from animal rights groups, the European Union permanently banned the import and sale of any animal-tested cosmetic products, including ingredients, this March. In the following op-ed article, Delphine Dippmann, a guest contributor from France, discusses the pros and cons of the new EU law. Read on to learn more about the recent ban and share your thoughts in the comments section below. — Global Animal
The late Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, was a leading campaigner for cruelty-free beauty. Photo Credit: PR Newswire Europe
The late Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, was a leading campaigner for cruelty-free beauty. Photo Credit: PR Newswire Europe

By Delphine Dippmann

As an animal lover, I always try to find cruelty-free products for my daily needs. I can’t say I’m always successful, but it’s always worth making the effort.

Being French and having lived in Europe my entire life, it has always seemed like animal protection lobbying is much more vivid in America than in Europe.

But a new European law has recently come into force, which could change everything about our consideration for animals on the Old Continent.

After gradual improvement that started back in 1983, an effective ban on animal testing for cosmetics eventually came into effect on March 11th, 2013.

So, from now on, cosmetic companies can no longer test their finished products or ingredients on animals if they plan to launch these products on the EU market.

Theoretically, the ban prevents foreign companies from animal testing on products intended for European buyers.

The testing ban on finished cosmetic products has been in effect since September 2004, and the testing ban on ingredients or a combination of ingredients came about in March 2009.

However, while all products are subjected to this new regulation, it appears the products launched right before the ban went into effect won’t be taken off store shelves.

I guess consumers will have to wait a bit longer before all animal tested products vanish from our supermarkets and drugstores.

So, how can we replace animals in labs?

The EU makes it a priority to implement alternative methods, so development and innovation does not stop in the cosmetic industry.

There are, of course, the 3R’s (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement), but in silico (mathematics-based) and in vitro methods have also recently surfaced.

Although the EU is willing to promote alternative methods with subsidies and enhanced research efforts, there will still be some exceptions for “repeated-dose toxicity, reproductive toxicity and toxicokinetics.” What this means, essentially, is not all cosmetic products will be cruelty-free.

I understand this is for safety reasons given that some cosmetic products are potentially dangerous, but I wish this new regulation could apply to everything as it is presented in media and even official documents (http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/sectors/cosmetics/animal-testing/index_en.htm). With this, we, as consumers, cannot truly know whether these products are truly cruelty-free or not.

This new regulation is also tricky because it only applies to cosmetic products and ingredients. However, some of these ingredients are also found in chemical products, which are not subjected to the testing ban. Therefore, be careful if you go shopping in Europe—you can purchase “animal-friendly” mascara, but your everyday detergent could have caused lethal suffering to animals like rabbits and mice.

This is why it’s important to pay attention to ethical claims on products and labels, such as Leaping Bunny, as they extend to chemical and household products.

Finally, the new ban fails to address another problem: governments outside the EU can still require animal testing for European products hitting their local markets.

China, for example, makes animal tests compulsory for anything entering the Chinese market. But of course, it is up to cosmetic brands to export their products in such nations.

Personally, I’m not going to support such hypocritical behavior, so I refuse to buy anything from companies pretending to be cruelty-free in one region and have their products tested on innocent animals elsewhere, just for the sake of greed. (See: Companies That Don’t Test On Animals)

The French organization, One Voice, also has an online section listing all the products that meet their requirements for being classified as “cruelty free”: http://label.one-voice.fr/liste_produits/ [only available in French].

Nevertheless, the new EU law is still a tremendous improvement for animal welfare, given that some market leaders of the cosmetic industry have tried their best to avoid this regulation.

What do you think of the efforts and progress the EU is making for animals? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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