Cosmetic companies turn blind eye to animal testing laws in China

Cosmetic companies turn blind eye to animal testing laws in China

Scientific technology has advanced well beyond the need for animal testing. Scientists can now test for human reactions by applying chemicals onto synthetically constructed tissues stemmed from human cells. So why are global cosmetic giants still paying for animal testing?
China is one of the last countries to conduct mandatory animal testing for all imported cosmetics. The Chinese government has had laws in place where all cosmetic companies are required to undergo animal testing for all products. These laws are ongoing and have not eased for manufacturers outside mainland China. And with China being a very lucrative market for cosmetics, companies who want a portion of the colossal market share simply give in to the requirements to raise their bottom line.

Fight for what is right

Animal rights organisation PETA, recently released an article claiming the big cosmetic companies are paying for animal testing in China where it is compulsory for all imported products.
PETA Australia’s campaign coordinator Claire Fryer says animal testing is not necessary and there are many alternatives which are cheaper, faster and cruelty free.
“Instead of measuring how long it takes a chemical to burn the cornea of a rabbit’s eye, manufacturers can now drop that chemical onto cornea-like 3D tissue structures produced from human cells,” says Ms Fryer. “Likewise, human skin cultures can be grown and purchased for skin irritation testing,” she adds.
PETA has been working hard to educate China on how to test the effects of cosmetics through a tube instead of animals. The organisation has funded $33,000 to the leading scientific establishment in China, the Institute for In Vitro Science (IIVS). This global institute aims to switch corporations like Revlon and Estee Lauder to alternative testing methods. From a grant made by PETA, Beijing Technology and Business University has held seminars to teach Chinese scientists to conduct alternative testing methods using artificial tissues from human cells.
“PETA and its affiliates have also funded the development of many non-animal testing methods for cosmetics, acute toxicity and allergic reactions, and cancer research. Through media and celebrity campaigns, we also work to encourage consumers to support companies that know cosmetics shouldn’t come with a death toll,” says Ms Fryer.
Following vigorous campaigning by PETA’s international affiliates including Israel, India and countries in the European Union have banned the sale of any cosmetics or cosmetics ingredients that have been tested on animals in recent years. Yet, China has not followed suit. What many consumers do not know is that major cosmetic companies are dancing around the question when asked if they test on animals.

What do the makeup companies say?

Many major companies have published on their websites that they do not test on animals except when required by law. For instance, Revlon has responded to criticism from PETA saying, “Revlon does not conduct animal testing and has not done so since 1989. We comprehensively test all of our products using the most technologically advanced methods available to ensure they are both innovative and safe to use.”

Revlon adds that it believes women should have the opportunity to express themselves through makeup, thus selling their products in many markets around the world. However, with China’s regulations still unshaken, Revlon is turning their back on producing cruelty free products to sell to the Chinese market. “Revlon complies with all regulations in the countries in which our products are sold, and supports the advancement of non-animal testing alternatives and methodologies in our industry,” says a Revlon spokesperson.
Estee Lauder has also said the same well-crafted response. On Estee Lauder’s website, it states, “We are proud that we were one of the first cosmetic companies to establish that cosmetic safety can be demonstrated by non‐animal testing methods”. However, the Chinese market is too lucrative to deny any profits from Chinese consumers. “We believe that animal testing should not be needed to validate safety of cosmetic products or ingredients and we are encouraging the use of alternatives and the elimination of such animal testing globally,” as it states on Estee Lauder’s website.

What does the future look like for animals?

Home Office’s animals in science regulation unit Judy MacArthur Clark told the Guardian more than 300,000 animals are used for testing. In most cases, these animals are being tested without anaesthetic and are disposed of once the tests have finished.
However, China is loosening its grasp on animal testing. In 2014, the Government changed its policy so that cometic companies manufacturing in China are able to sell ordinary cosmetics such as makeup, perfumes and hair products to consumers without animal testing. This does not include cosmetics that are not self-indulgent such as sunscreens and antiperspirants. “Chinese society, as it becomes more westernised, is certainly becoming more focused on the care of animals. But people there need to be sure their cosmetics are safe to use,” says MacArthur Clark.
As more countries join the cruelty free bandwagon, the future can see China amend their laws to stop animal testing for good. How far down the track this is likely to happen is unknown.

What can you do to help?

There are many things you can do to help end animal testing. Firstly, say no to buying products which test on animals, period. The best way to determine if they test on animals is by reading their websites carefully.

A general guide to knowing if they test on animals like Revlon, might say, ‘we do not test on animals except when required by law’. Try purchasing completely vegan cosmetics. This means the product contains only the best quality ingredients and generally are organically certified. There are also petitions you can sign on the PETA website. One voice can make all the difference. 


Authored by: Journalist Jessica Poulter

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