By Dan Jørgensen - 12th October 2012
Not only would cosmetics tests using animals not be performed in Europe, the ban would also mean that non-EU companies wishing to export their products to the EU would have to change their animal-testing ways
The EU should lead the way in animal welfare standards and turn the promises of an animal cosmetics testing ban into a reality, says Dan Jørgensen
Is it fair to expose animals to great suffering, pain and distress in order to produce cosmetics so that the people can look a bit prettier? I think the answer to that question is easy; of course not. This is why it is a good thing that the European Union has banned the testing of cosmetics on animals, but a bad thing that strong forces are now working for a postponement of the ban.
Allow me to remind you what it is we are talking about here. Animal testing in the cosmetic industry is a terrible thing. The tests measure the levels of skin irritancy, eye tissue damage, and toxicity caused by various substances used in the manufacture of cosmetics. The eye tissue damage of a product is, for example, measured by dripping the possible dangerous substance into the eyes of a conscious rabbit. The eyes of the rabbit are often held open with clips at the lid, and sometimes the rabbit break its neck or back struggling to escape.
After several postponements, the EU cosmetics directive introduced fixed deadlines for phasing out tests of cosmetic products on animals. Thus a final ban on testing of cosmetics on animals comes into force in 2013. Or does it? It appears from the commission’s ‘Working document on alternatives to animal testing – marketing ban’, sent to stakeholders on 20 December 2011, that the commission wants to introduce derogations to the ban.
It is not yet sure how such derogations will look, but the fact of the matter is that they will allow for the continuation of animal tests in cosmetics. We should not let this happen.
The pain, distress, and suffering caused to animals used in cosmetics tests cannot be justified in any way. Cosmetics are non-essential products. We don’t need them to survive. Furthermore, it is not like a ban on animal testing will put consumers’ safety into jeopardy.
Thousands of previously tested cosmetics ingredients are already available to companies and consumers. These existing safe ingredients can be used and reformulated without the need for further testing. Indeed, many ‘new’ products are simply reformulations of existing ingredients.
Also, many alternative testing methods to animal testing have been developed. And with a ban on animal tests I am sure that we will see even more.
EU citizens feel strongly about this issue. Over the years, they have supported numerous petitions and initiatives intended to ensure that EU decision makers are aware of their view. The most recent of these were 350,000 signatures collected in just two weeks, which were then handed over to health and consumer policy commissioner John Dalli on 18 June 2012. The petition called for enforcement of the 2013 sales ban and rejection of any proposal for a delay or derogation.
The consumer has a right to be sure that when he or she buys a cosmetic product, that product has not been tested on animals. A complete ban thus means that every shop and internet supplier in Europe will be free of animal-tested cosmetics.
Not only would cosmetics tests using animals not be performed in Europe, the ban would also mean that non-EU companies wishing to export their products to the EU would have to change their animal-testing procedures. In this way, the EU would take the lead in animal welfare standards and influence non-European companies to follow their lead.
Several companies have already shown that a complete ban is possible. More than 400 companies certified under the ‘Leaping Bunny’ scheme have already committed to applying a ‘fixed cut-off date’ after which they have not added new cosmetics ingredients to their products. If they can do it, every company can do it.
As president of the intergroup on the welfare and conservation of animals, I have, together with 13 of my colleages, written a letter to European commission president José Manual Barroso calling for the commission not to postpone the ban on animal testing in cosmetics. However, we are still waiting for an answer.
A complete ban on marketing and testing of cosmetics is the only way to guarantee animal welfare and to ensure that the wishes of EU citizens on this matter are respected. The EU has made a promise to its citizens that shop shelves will be free of animal tested cosmetics in 2013. It is time for this promise to become a reality.
Dan Jørgensen is a vice chair of parliament's environment, public health and food safety committee and chair of the European intergroup on animal welfare