Animal testing for make-up restarts in UK after 25-year ban
After a 25-year ban, the government has made the decision to resume animal testing for makeup ingredients. The change in policy was made to align with EU chemical rules, as confirmed by a ruling from the High Court. Animal rights activists brought a case against the government, but the High Court deemed their actions legal. However, over 80 brands have expressed their dismay at the government's new stance.
Until 1998, the UK had a complete ban on animal testing for makeup and its ingredients. Animal testing was only permitted if the benefits outweighed the animal suffering, such as for medicinal purposes. However, in 2020, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) mandated that some cosmetic ingredients should be tested on animals to ensure the safety of workers involved in manufacturing these ingredients.
During the court case, it was revealed that since 2019, the government had been issuing licenses for animal testing of cosmetic ingredients in accordance with EU chemical regulations, which they continued even after leaving the EU in 2020. This could involve subjecting rats to inhaling or ingesting chemicals commonly found in foundations and concealers.
The exact number of licenses issued and their recipients remains unknown. Cruelty Free International (CFI), the organization that brought the case, argued that this practice was illegal and violated the makeup and ingredient testing ban in place since 1998.
Despite acknowledging the lack of public awareness, Mr. Justice Levin ruled in favor of the government, stating that the policy change still complied with existing laws. Major beauty and cosmetic brands, including Unilever, Body Shop, and Boots, strongly criticized the government's decision. These brands have long campaigned against animal testing and plan to vigorously oppose the changes.
The ingredients that may now undergo animal testing include homosalate, a common sunscreen ingredient already used in many foundations and skincare products. While homosalate is safe in low doses, its effects on the human immune system in higher concentrations remain inconclusive.
Manufacturers can now apply for licenses to conduct animal testing before production begins to ensure worker safety. However, they are still prohibited from conducting animal testing to determine makeup safety for consumers, as alternative methods should be used instead.
Mr. Justice Levin stated that the government could introduce an absolute ban on animal testing for makeup products if it so desired. Cruelty Free International CEO Michelle Thew expressed outrage at the government's decision, accusing it of prioritizing contract-testing companies' interests over animal welfare and the majority of British citizens who oppose cosmetics testing.
Cruelty Free International intends to appeal the court's decision and urge the government to reinstate the complete ban in the UK. Dr. Julia Fentem, head of the safety and environmental assurance centre at Unilever, emphasized that the tests potentially required under the new policy are unnecessary and that safety assessments can be conducted without involving animals.
The government is expected to publish a new chemicals strategy this year, which will outline its position on the use and testing of chemicals in the UK. This strategy may include further guidance for cosmetic companies.