Animal Testing - A Behind the Scenes Look at a Complex Issue

Posted by Kathryn Stolle on

 Not tested on animals

 When you pick up a bottle of our baby shampoo and see the “cruelty-free” symbol on the label, it’s reassuring, right? However, unless you are one of the few persons totally committed to eco-friendly products, you won’t find the label on many, if not most, of the other products you use daily. We thought we’d take you behind the scenes for an in-depth look at this decidedly complicated and unpopular subject.

Why Test on Animals in the First Place?

After World War II, the Nuremberg Code, developed following the post-war military tribunals, and the Declaration of Helsinki by the France-based World Medical Association, an international doctors’ organization, "recommended that drugs and chemicals be tested on lab animals before they could be used by humans. '[It was] to ensure that there was no testing on vulnerable populations of humans,' says physiologist Gilly Griffin at the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) in Ottawa.

Given the advances in the medical, industrial, household and cosmetics industries (to name only a few) that have employed animals to test their ingredients and products, the sheer number of animals that have suffered in the name of progress boggles the mind.

As a matter of fact, hundreds of thousands of mice, rats, fish, rabbits, dogs, cats, cows and even primates are still subjected to testing annually.

Cosmetics and Household Products

Thousands of ingredients have been tested on animals in the past. Companies that develop new end products obviously can freely make use of them and still maintain that their product has not been tested on animals. The efforts of most of the animal rights/protection organizations are aimed at future animal testing.

USA Neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requires animal testing for cosmetics or household products. “However, FDA has consistently advised cosmetic manufacturers to employ whatever testing is appropriate and effective for substantiating the safety of their products,” according to the FDA website

In June 2015, H.R. Bill 2858  “Humane Cosmetics Act” was introduced as a bipartisan bill and sent to committee. The bill is supported by celebrities Kesha, Jenna Dewan-Tatum and Ricky Gervais, and more than 140 companies in the cosmetics industry such as LUSH, COTY, The Body Shop, Overstock and Paul Mitchell.

Multi-national cosmetics manufacturers that already comply with similar laws in more than 30 countries are encouraged to support the Humane Cosmetics Act. The bill is endorsed by the HSUS and HSLF (Humane Society Legislative Fund) spearheading the #BeCrueltyFree campaign in the U.S., and Humane Society International leading the campaign globally.

Yet, currently, it stands only a 9% chance of being enacted. Write your congressmen!

Canada The Canadian Council on Animal Care is responsible for oversight of animals used in testing in Canada and has developed guidelines for the care and use of experimental animals. Like the US, testing is not required yet companies are advised to use whatever means available to ensure the safety of their products.

Similar to the US, Bill S-234 An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (cruelty-free cosmetics) was introduced in the Senate and unfortunately not passed (dissolution) on second reading.

EU Only the European Union (EU), a leader in sustainable practices, has banned animal testing for cosmetic products in all countries in the EU as of 2013, even if they have been tested outside of the EU.

Obviously PETA and other animal rights organizations are pushing hard for similar bans worldwide. But, the dilemma for the large conglomerates is that in order to remain innovative, they have to submit to the requirements presently in place in D.C., Ottawa and elsewhere - a true Catch-22 situation.

Doing Something About It

PETAPeople for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest and one of the most influential animal rights organization in the world, with more than 3 million members and supporters, focusing primarily on the areas of factory farms, in the clothing trade, in laboratories and in the entertainment industry.

PETA's Caring Consumer Program ("Companies That Don't Test on Animals" and companion "Companies That Do Test on Animals") has been a “go-to” for many consumers for years.

PETA has been very successful in many of their campaigns, but since they are also radically opposed to everything from sheep farming in Australia (don't wear wool or use lanolin) to commercial fishing and leather, we applaud but don’t always completely endorse all their views and their tactics.

The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, a coalition of 8 animal protection groups, and supported internationally, has a list of companies that comply with their guidelines.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is another organization committed to protecting the animals currently used in testing and eliminating animal testing altogether.

The 3 R’s

No, it’s not Reading, Writing and Arithmetic – it’s replacement, reduction and refinement.

Replacement:  Don’t use animals if a non-animal method exists that can answer the scientific question at hand.

 Reduction:  If you must use animals, keep the number to the minimum necessary to answer the question.

 Refinement: If you must use animals, keep any pain or distress they experience to a minimum.

Back to that PETA list of companies that don't test, there are some notable exceptions, and not a little misinformation, particularly with some of the huge companies like Proctor and Gamble, L'Oreal and Johnson and Johnson. L'Oreal says that today more than 99 percent of its raw ingredients, and since 1989, all of its final products, are tested without animals. 

On its website, Proctor and Gamble  states that it hasn't tested its cosmetic products on animals in the U.S. for over 10 years and has halted it globally, claiming to have spent over $350 million to date to find alternatives to animal testing.

And, like L’Oreal and Johnson and Johnson, P&G company representatives sits on the advisory board of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing CAAT.

What's In Store

The good news is that technological advances such as in vitro cell culture tests, advanced chemistry methods and cultured human tissue are proving to be more reliable for product testing than animal tests.

In the future, we can expect to see positive outcomes from research areas like toxicogenomics, a new sub-discipline of toxicology that provides a more complete picture of how cells respond to ingredients, and others that will make animal testing obsolete.

As pressure continues on governmental agencies in the U.S., Canada and other countries to eliminate animal testing, coupled with advanced, validated alternative testing methods, millions of animals will be spared the nasty and often horrible ends that are presently the case.

In the meantime, look for "not tested on animals" on your favorite product - including ours! And - yes - we are PETA approved!!


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