Companies that produce concealer and other cosmetics products have apparently been doing some concealing of their own. Estee Lauder, Avon and Mary Kay have resumed animal testing on cosmetics to sell in China – even as the companies continue to claim in the United States that their products are cruelty-free. And now, federal lawmakers are debating new ways to regulate cosmetics.
As a toxicologist, I can understand why the animal testing revelation has American customers fuming. We do not want animals to suffer and die to bring lipstick and eye shadow to store shelves – especially when non-animal methods make this testing completely unnecessary. There is no excuse for any cosmetics company to test products on animals at anytime, anywhere, for any reason.
Estee Lauder, Avon and Mary Kay, which have not tested on animals in more than two decades, should not have given in to the Chinese government’s demands for animal testing when they know animal testing is cruel, inefficient and ineffective.
The majority of consumers want to purchase products that have not been tested in experiments on animals. More than 70 percent of Americans oppose testing personal care products on animals, according to an independent survey our organization recently commissioned. Sixty-one percent said that testing these products on animals should be illegal. And 78 percent agreed that developing alternatives to animal testing is important.
Cruelty-free cosmetics are now solidly mainstream. In fact, the European Union banned animal tests for cosmetics and personal care products in 2009. Some high-profile American companies, including Bath and Body Works, Almay and Aveda, have stopped testing their products on animals.
But tens of thousands of rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, and rats each year are still subjected to excruciating tests at the behest of other companies, including crude procedures in which irritating chemicals are placed in animals’ eyes and on their skin.
These painful tests are not the most effective way to test cosmetics. Each species reacts differently to various substances, so it is difficult to interpret what animal test results mean for humans.
There is a better way. Non-animal alternatives – which are cheaper, faster and more accurate – are already widely available. For example, artificial human skin and eye models grown in the laboratory can mimic the potential dangers a new substance might pose to human skin and eyes more accurately than rabbit tests.
Estee Lauder, Avon and Mary Kay should regain their cruelty-free statuses and use this experience to educate consumers and governments about the importance of testing products using ethical methods based on human physiology. And other cosmetics companies should make the transition to cruelty-free methods.
It’s 2012 – no company should be testing its products by dropping chemicals into the eyes or onto the bare skin of rabbits. It’s time for China, the United States, and other countries to specify non-animal tests in their cosmetics and chemical testing policies. And it’s time for all cosmetics companies to heed their customers’ demands for cruelty-free products.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Kristie Sullivan is the scientific and policy adviser with the vegan organization Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 5100 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20016; website: http://www.pcrm.org.