“A hole in leadership”: Cruelty Free International goes head-to-head with UK Home Office over animal testing in cosmetics
18 Jan 2023 --- The hearing for a judicial review of the UK Home Office’s policy on animal testing has begun today at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Led by action group Cruelty Free International, the two-day review challenges the Home Office’s decision to abandon the policy ban on testing cosmetics on animals – which has been in place since 1998.
In its August 2021 letter to Cruelty Free International, the Home Office admitted that it allows animal testing for cosmetics in the UK.
Tests are required even where chemicals are used exclusively as cosmetics ingredients.
“This judicial review is vital in our fight to reinstate the cosmetics testing ban,” remarks Michelle Thew, CEO at Cruelty Free International.
“The Home Office’s admission that it now allows animal testing for cosmetic ingredients – including those used solely in cosmetics, and with a history of safe use – blows a hole in the UK’s long standing leadership in banning animal testing for cosmetics.”
The Home Office’s admission that it allows animal testing for cosmetics in the UK followed the publishing of Cruelty Free International’s open letter, co-signed by more than 80 companies, including Unilever, The Body Shop, Avon, Boots, Waitrose and the Co-op, voicing concerns that ingredients in beauty products would have to be tested on animals in the UK.
Scrutiny of government communications
The judicial review – which decides the lawfulness of a public body’s actions – has been brought for two reasons. Firstly, it will confirm whether the decision to reverse the cosmetics policy ban is unlawful.
Secondly, it aims to confirm that the Home Office must assess the usefulness of the product or ingredient before deciding whether to grant a license for animal tests. The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 requires this assessment, based on ethical considerations and the likely benefits to humans, animals or the environment.
However, Cruelty Free International flags that the UK government now says that a license for safety testing on animals must be granted for tests, while another regulator claims it is “scientifically required, regardless of how useful the product is or how much suffering is involved.”
“The government seems to be telling the public one thing – that cosmetics animal testing is banned in the UK – and doing something entirely different in practice,” stresses Thew.
She argues these tests are “not tests that cosmetics companies want or feel the need to do” to ensure the safety of their products. “We also know, from poll after poll, that the British people are firmly opposed to animals suffering for beauty.”
“A poll carried out by YouGov in Autumn 2021 revealed that 85% of people in the UK find it unacceptable to test cosmetics ingredients on animals.”
Regional developments in animal-free testing
Meanwhile in mainland Europe, an EU-wide petition to ban animal testing recently closed in September, with 1,413,383 EU citizens signing the Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics/End Animal Testing European Citizens’ Initiative, demanding an end to the practice.
Last May, Unilever warned that the progress on banning animal testing for good was experiencing a “backward slide.” The company flagged that the European Chemicals Agency allowed loopholes for new animal tests.
In the US, New York became the tenth US state to prohibit the sale of cosmetics tested on animals after Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Cruelty Free Cosmetics Act into law. Under the terms of the Act, it was recently announced that selling cosmetics newly tested on animals will be prohibited in New York from January, 2023.
Instead, manufacturers in the state will have to use widely available non-animal testing methods. Cosmetics currently on the market will remain available.
Recent analysis by Provenance demonstrates that 79% of shoppers have doubts about the trustworthiness of the environmental sustainability and social impact claims of beauty and wellness brands.
Many celebrity-led products released this year sport the cruelty-free tag, with recent examples including Billie Eilish’s Eilish No. 2 fragrance launch; new makeup lines by Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga and Stella McCartney; and Nyx Professional Makeup’s latest vegan palette inspired by the film Avatar.
Alongside ambitions to eliminate animal testing is a rising sentiment among consumers favoring vegan products. Innova Market Insights highlights that the use of vegan claims in personal care launches increased globally, featuring a 36% annual growth when comparing 2021 and 2020 launches.
The Vegan Society recently forecasted that the animal-free cosmetics industry will climb to a worth of US$21.4 billion by 2027. Out of more than 60,000 products registered with the Vegan Trademark globally, 45% belong to the cosmetics and toiletries category.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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