Choosing cruelty-free

Green Lifestyle magazine

The European Union recently announced a ban on the import and sale of animal tested cosmetics in European countries. But the practice of testing cosmetics is still allowed here in Australia. Here’s how to ensure your cabinet is cruelty-free.


Cruelty-free cosmetics, top row: Blossom Eco Baby’s Oat Milk Bath, $14.95, www.blossomeco.com.au; ECO Minerals Mascara, $33, www.ecominerals.com.au; emerginC men Post-Shave Reinforcer, $47, www.emerginc.com; GROWN Facial Masque, $39.95, www.grown.com. Middle row: ECO Minerals Blush, $33, and Kabuki brush, $22, www.ecominerals.com.au; Sukin Rose Hip Hydrating Day Cream, $23.95, www.sukinorganics.com; GROWN Damask Rose Shampoo, $29.95, www.grown.com; Lush Toothy Tabs Aquatic, $2.50, www.lush.com.au. Bottom row: Antipodes Grace Gentle Cream Cleanser, $39, www.antipodesnature.com; Trilogy Very Gentle Moisturising Cream, $37.95, www.trilogyproducts.com; NVEY ECO Advanced Care Lip Colour, $29.95, www.nveyeco.com; De Lorenzo Instant Restructurant, $29.50, www.delorenzo.

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There’s a good reason that to be a guinea pig still stands as a common phrase to mean “to be tested on”. Despite the greatest advances in modern times, many animal species are still subject to the cruel practice of ‘safety’ testing of various products and medicines – many of which are cosmetics.

Recently, the European Union (EU) announced a ban on the sale and import of cosmetics that have been tested on animals. The EU had already banned actual animal-testing of cosmetics and ingredients within its countries, except where complex human health effects such as cancer-causing toxicity were concerned, for which no alternative non-animal tests existed. The new ban, effective March 11, covers all human health effects whether or not other tests are available. The situation in Australia however remains unchanged.

Liz Jackson, president of Choose Cruelty Free (CCF), an independent, Australian, non-profit organisation that accredits manufacturers for cruelty-free practices, welcomed the development, saying CCF have campaigned for 20 years for this to happen in Australia. “We’re busy lobbying our government to change things here.”

Animal-testing of cosmetics in Australia is not required by industry regulations but neither is it prohibited countrywide (South Australia has bans). According to the Australian Government website www.health.gov.au, the Department of Health and Ageing still considers it “important for assessing the safety of cosmetic ingredients”. Though it’s not prevalent here, animal-testing of products such as lipstick, sunscreen, toothpaste, shampoo and deodorant is still used by overseas companies with Australian subsidiaries.

About the tests

The tests are to designed to show if products will affect human reproductive organs, irritate skin or eyes, or cause poisoning. They primarily involve rats, mice, dogs, cats, fish, primates and hens. Test products may be applied or ingested, and the animals are sometimes left for days without pain relief. If they don’t die during the tests, they are euthanased afterwards.

The contentious LD50 test (Lethal Dose 50 per cent) continues until half of the test animals die. In Draize tests, mostly involving rabbits, substances are applied to the eyes, often causing severe damage, pain and blindness. The animals may be restrained in stocks.

Health guidelines in many countries now allow computer modelling to predict the toxicity of cosmetics based on chemical structure. Other tests use only cell or tissue cultures, or bacteria such as Salmonella. Then there are human volunteers for skin patch tests. Jackson contends that there are plenty of ingredients already certified as being safe.

What you can do

To ensure you don’t contribute to animal suffering, look for cosmetics with a cruelty-free logo such as the CCF’s bunny with the words ‘not tested on animals’. CCF lists accredited cosmetics companies on its website.

Companies mentioned on animals rights websites as using animal tests are Procter & Gamble (Pantene, Oral-B), Unilever (Lynx, Dove) and Colgate-Palmolive. The Unilever and Colgate websites inform consumers the companies are minimising animal testing and have contributed millions of dollars to research into alternative testing methods. The Procter & Gamble website says the company doesn’t test cosmetics on animals.

Liz Jackson is optimistic the EU ban will spur big cosmetics companies to phase out animal-testing of cosmetics. Helping the cause is a similar ban in Israel and the fact that India is considering one. This may put pressure on countries such as China, which still requires animal testing of cosmetics by law.

“Large companies are competitive and they will be pushing to offer consumers alternatives,” Jackson says. “If we can save some animals – and we’re talking about millions here – then that’s a good thing.”

Choosing natural products such as those in the picture here means no nasty chemicals and no need to test on animals. Always still check the labels. For a complete list of brands visit www.choosecrueltyfree.org.au. **Please note - in the current June/July issue of Green Lifestyle magazine that we included Jurlique in this list - they do, in fact test on animals, and we don't recommend Jurlique's products.