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Animal Testing Myths
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Common misconceptions about animal testing in the cosmetics industry
“Some cosmetic companies are testing their formulations on animals”
This is simply not true. Not only is testing finished cosmetic products on animals not allowed in the European Union (including the UK) there is no need for any company to test their formulations on animals. The safety of a product is assessed using the information known about its ingredients. This is recognised in law where the Cosmetics Regulation says "The safety of finished cosmetic products can already be ensured on the basis of knowledge of the safety of the ingredients that they contain". A qualified expert is able to look at this information to certify the product as safe. However, there have been occasions when the safety of an existing ingredient is called into question and it has been necessary for industry to resort to a small number of animal studies in order to demonstrate safety to the European independent Scientific Committee and the European Commission.
“The cosmetics industry tests on millions of animals a year”
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Only a tiny proportion of all the animals used in research were used to evaluate cosmetic ingredient safety. According to official figures from the European Commission, the number of animals used in tests carried out in the EU in relation to the safety of cosmetic ingredients in 2007 was 1818 animals, in 2008 this figure dropped to 1510 animals out of a total of just over 12 million animals used in the EU for experimental and other scientific purposes. The figure for cosmetic ingredient testing will be lower still for 2009 and will be zero for 2010, became of the testing ban coming into effect.
“The cosmetics industry hasn’t bothered to develop alternatives”
The cosmetics industry has been researching alternatives for over 20 years. It has a long-standing commitment to the replacement of animal testing and to playing a leading role in the development of alternatives by dedicating funding, time, resources and scientific expertise to this area of research. This has already been successful; over twenty validated and accepted alternatives have already been developed by the cosmetics industry and are used by other industries too.
As an example of the cosmetics industry’s contribution, the members of the European cosmetics industry trade association, Cosmetics Europe, dedicated 25 million Euros to a research programme for developing alternatives for systemic toxicity testing. The European Commission has matched this amount, taking the total sum of this joint investment to 50 million Euros. This initiative led to the SEURAT research programme into alternatives for systemic toxicity.
Remember, the cosmetics industry is not the only industry sector that benefits from the development of alternatives. Scientists from other industry sectors such as the pharmaceutical, chemical and food industries are all legally obliged to use alternative methods where they exist.
“Cosmetics are vanity items, we can do without them”
The same accusation could be leveled at any consumer product which is not essential for life; but in today’s democratic society the consumer has the right to choose their own lifestyle.
While it’s true that we buy some types of cosmetic products to help us look good - there is nothing wrong with this and there is a proven link between looking and feeling good and between improved self-esteem and productivity.
What many people don’t know is that under the European legislation for cosmetics, the term “cosmetic” doesn’t just relate to make-up, hair colorants and skin creams, but also to products such as soap, shower-gel, shampoo and toothpaste – even the lotion on a baby wipe is classed as a cosmetic. All these products are essential for maintaining good skin and oral hygiene. Sun protection creams are also included under the legal definition of a cosmetic. These are a vital part of a person’s sun safe regime – something also promoted by Cancer Research UK in their SunSmart campaign.
“Companies making “not tested on animals” claims are proof that animal testing isn’t needed.
Companies can choose whether or not to label their products with a claim such as “Not Tested on Animals” or similar, including logos, but they must make it very clear what this means. The European Commission has issued guidance on the use of these types of claims. This makes it clear that claiming no animal tests have been carried out can only be done if the manufacturer and its suppliers have not carried out or commissioned any animal tests on the finished product, or its prototype or any of the ingredients contained in it, or used any ingredients that have been tested on animals by others for the purpose of developing new cosmetic products. By law, companies must also be able to prove any claims that they make.
Please remember that the absence of such a claim does not mean animals were used in the development of the product, only that the company is honest in recognising that almost every single one of the many substances used in all of today’s consumer goods has been tested at some time on animals by someone and, as the Cosmetics Regulation recognises, safety of the finished product is based on knowledge of the safety of its ingredients.
“The cosmetic companies testing on animals have no compassion”
This is not true. Nobody, including those who work in cosmetic companies, wants to test on animals and it has always been a last resort, not least because of the ethical concerns involved, as well as being expensive and time-consuming. If available, alternatives are less expensive and quicker to perform while providing data of equally high quality – preferable to all concerned! The ultimate goal of the cosmetic industry is to continue to provide safe products without the needfor testing on animals.
“Natural ingredients do not need testing for safety”
Whether ingredients are natural or man-made has no bearing on how safe they are at all. We all know of very dangerous natural substances such as yew leaves, foxgloves, certain fungi (death cap, avenging angel), poison ivy etc. What’s more important are the properties of that ingredient, how much of the ingredient you are using and how you are using it. Just because an ingredient is from a natural source does not mean that safety can be assured. It still needs to be considered in the safety assessment of a product.
Anything has the potential to be harmful if used in the wrong way – even water, or salt for example; too much or too little of either can cause severe harm.