Animal testing: the unethical loophole

— Amy Peat contributed with this article

Most people use some form of cosmetic to enhance their natural attributes and to generally try to make themselves feel better. And the majority of consumers would say that they’re against animal testing, and would be concerned for the welfare of the animals.

Testing cosmetics on animals can be involved in any part of the manufacturing process, either on a completed product or one or many of the ingredients within the final composition of a product.


Products that have been tested on animals still appear on UK shelves. Photo: Tim Moore

Tireless campaigns by bodies such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation (PETA) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) bring such issues to public attention.

Testing is usually undertaken to make sure that the product isn’t going to damage the skin or eyes of the consumer, and often this means using animals such as rabbits, rats and mice.

Some of the videos on the PETA website are graphic and disturbing with animals being kept in metal cages screaming for freedom.

In the UK, animal testing in cosmetics has been banned since 1998, so the issue in this country today is the fact that products are still being imported and sold, even though elements of them could be tested on animals.

The EU enacted an amendment to their cosmetics directive, to implement a “partial ban on the sale anywhere in the EU of cosmetics and toiletries containing ingredients which have been tested on animals.”

This means that animal testing in Europe will be reduced, but it doesn’t solve the problem of imported products from areas in other parts of the world.

Alastair Currie, one of PETA’s policy advisors, said: “Thanks to changes in the law, cosmetics testing on animals in the EU is now a thing of the past, but imported animal-tested cosmetics will still available on high street shelves for another few years.”

Some well established companies admit to animal testing. Unilever, a massive multinational corporation who supply everything from food to cosmetics and cleaning products, are one such company.

It is highly likely that somewhere within everyone’s household there is a Unilever branded product. They are the makers of popular brands such as Lynx, Dove, Sure, Sunsilk hair care, and Vaseline.

Another company which admits to animal testing is Proctor & Gamble, who is behind such cosmetic items as Olay, Gillette, Pantene, Wella, Max Factor, and, Herbal Essences.

Another massive sector of the Proctor & Gamble market is the fragrances they produce for many high profile brands, including Dolce & Gabanna, Escada, Dunhill, Gucci, Hugo Boss, and Lacoste.

We don’t know for sure which or if any of these particular products are definitely tested on animals, but they are listed on one campaign website as being open to animal testing or not proved otherwise as of February 2009.

Proctor & Gamble have invoked such outrage at their methods of testing that online campaigners  have recently had their 14th annual global boycott P&G day, last Saturday, May 8th.  They aim to inform people of the testing techniques undertaken by the company in the production of many of their products.

The site states that in 2008, Proctor & Gamble scientists had poisoned and killed thousands of animals in tests of a chemical, which had already been in use by humans for decades.

Massive companies such as Lush cosmetics, The Body Shop, Marks & Spencer, and The Co-op take a massive stance on stopping animal testing, and so it is certified that any of their products are produced and sold without any cruelty to animals. This proves the point that it is possible to make desirable and safe products without harming animals.

PETA’s statement to The Linc summed it up perfectly: “Everyone recognises that testing cosmetics and household products on animals is wrong, but people can find it confusing figuring out who is and isn’t doing it. Some companies make claims that look convincing, but don’t really stand up to scrutiny and sometimes their PR is very skilful at obscuring the truth.”

“The only way people can be confident is to see what organisations like PETA are saying about their policies – our only interest is protecting animals. PETA’s website contains all the information that people need to make compassionate, responsible choices,” they said.

For more information on animal testing, lists of products which are against animal testing and to view PETA videos, visit Uncaged and PETA‘s websites.

9 Responses to Animal testing: the unethical loophole

  1. James says:

    Testing on animals has helped develop vaccines for many life threatening diseases like Herpes Simplex, Hepatitis B, Polio, rabies, malaria, mumps and virus related to organ transplantation rejection. In addition to this, animal testing has also helped in the refinement of procedures related to measuring the blood pressure, pacemaker technology and the perfection of the heart and lung diseases. You will be surprised to read that anesthesia which is used to numb the body during surgery and acute pain is available today after it was successfully tested on animals first.

    Human beings are not the only living creatures that have benefited from animal testing. Heart worm medication was devised from research on animals and has to day helped in saving the lives of many dogs. Animal research has also provided better understanding of cat nutrition and the reasons behind as to why cats live longer and remain healthier are better understood.

    Finding a cure and a vaccine for AIDS has become one of the most important goals of the medical research industry. The animal models for AIDS are a very important part of the research as they help in understanding the biology of immune-deficiency viruses.

  2. Julie Robertson says:

    According to your reasoning it is OK to torture cats and dogs if it will improve the lives of other, more privileged, cats and dogs. Considering your commitment to animal research, would you be willing to give your cat or dog over to research in order to improve the lives of other cats or dogs? Or does it only suit your mind if the cats and dogs being torture are nameless and faceless.

    What gives us the right to torture other beings in order to improve our own lives? Simply because we can? What is it that we are doing that makes us so worthy of saving? We are destroying this planet through greed and selfcenteredness, while totally disregarding the other beings that share this planet. Since you are so enamored with using other unwilling beings for research and so impressed with the benefits, why don’t you sign yourself up as a volunteer? The research would be so much more accurate with a human specimen, and your sacrifice would be for the greater good of others.

  3. Noelle Declayton says:

    I’m one of those aforementioned people who would be shocked and appalled to know that the products they use are being tested on animals. I pride myself on buying most of my “kit” from The Body Shop – a company firmly against testing. Having said that, there have been occasions where a sparkly brand has caught my eye, and on closer inspection of my make-up bag, I have the odd eyeliner or mascarra. After a little internet research, I understand that as well as being used on myself, they have also been used on lab mice, rabbits and rats in the goriest of ways (spared by this article, but not necessarily for the good).

    These websites proved helpful in pinning down the guilty companies:

    http://www.tagnwag.com/testsonnanimals.html
    http://www.peta.org/ (as mentioned by you).

    I’m amazed at the extent of brands that do this practice, both on these sites and in your article. It seems that a lot of attractively cheap make-up, hair and body products are some of the worst culprits.

    From now, I’ll be keeping a sharper eye open!

  4. Patrizia Scally says:

    The use of animals to test cosmetic, personal care, and household products should be outlawed. It is unnecessary and cruel.

  5. Judith C says:

    I do not support animal testing of any kind.

  6. Liz Alexander says:

    Stop this wickedness. The laws must be changed. We should follow the example of the Lord Dowding Humane Research Fund.

  7. K says:

    Yes but do you not agree that it is simply unnecessary to test for cosmetic and household purposes? If we can just reduce the number of animals being tested on it is better than nothing.

  8. Eilidh says:

    It has also killed 10,000 people in the UK alone, and hospitalised over 250,000. Animal testing only continues purely due to the fact that scientists refuse to look at far more cost and time, not to mention ethical alternatives.

  9. Jack says:

    Animal tests are obsolete, and most of the animal testing models, like the Draize eye irritation test used on rabbits, were developed in the WW II era. Compare that to alternative testing models that one company alone has paid $250 million to produce over the years, which use highly analytic, accurate models that inspect ingredients for safety at the systemic and molecular levels in state-of-the-art equipment. Animal testing is used because when a company is sued, they get to tell juries how unreliable animal testing is, how uninsightful it is, and how, because they tested on animals, they couldn’t have possibly known the ingredient wasn’t safe, because the animals didn’t show unsafe signs in testing.

    Also, the Polio vaccine was set back in research by nearly a decade because of misleading results from testing on dogs that didn’t have the same outcomes as humans did to the virus; this is because animals get different variations of diseases– you can’t give a chimp HIV, for instance, you have to give them something different, not entirely the same; same for cats, which for about a decade, before researchers finally gave up on cats, cats were being infected for *feline* HIV and the tests were giving misleading results, because they didn’t translate to similar results with actual HIV in humans.

    Apologists for animal testing assumes that because it is ethically painful, it therefore must be worth it. It’s not, and these people don’t know how diseases work, or product liability lawsuit defenses operate.