By Sarah LennoxToday was the beginning of a new era for animal testing as the European Union banned animal testing for cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients with Monday being the last day to phase out the testing method.
The EU banned the testing of finished cosmetics on animals in 2004 and cosmetic ingredients in 2009, but more complex testing was extended until Monday. Companies were also able to test on animals outside of Europe until the deadline.
Tonio Borg, the European commissioner in charge of health and consumer policy, said in a press release that this decision is a sign of Europe’s dedication to animal welfare.
“The Commission is committed to continue supporting the development of alternative methods and to engage with third countries to follow our European approach,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for Europe to set an example of responsible innovation in cosmetics without any compromise on consumer safety.”
The EU is now calling for China to stop its use of animal testing. The Asian country requires animal tests on their cosmetic products.
Troy Seidle, the director of research and toxicology for Humane Society International, told Humber News that China has a younger scientific industry and an educational barrier when it comes to animal welfare.
Canada doesn’t require animal testing, but it also doesn’t have laws against the tests.
“It’s embarrassing because there’s no legal requirement and this is a first world country,” Seidle said. “Companies have a choice.”
Seidle said animals from guinea pigs and mice to rabbits can be subjected to tests where substances and chemicals are applied to their eyes and skin. They can also be force-fed products in large doses and then euthanized inhumanely when the tests are complete if they haven’t already died from the procedures. Companies can even buy tiny rodent guillotines to end the experiments.
However, the ban on animal testing in Europe is a positive step that shows the process is outdated, said Seidle who called the ban “a win, win, win.”
When it comes to alternatives, Seidle cited one company that makes human cell-derived tissues on which cosmetic companies can test products. These tissues are cheaper and perform better than animal testing, he said.
Griffin said reports have been released advising scientists to look into non-animal testing.
“It has taken a long time. It’s taken Europe a long time to get to that point, but it’s not just Europe,” she said. “North America too is working to develop non-animal methods that can be used to make an assessment of risk.”
There’s a list of ingredients in Canada that has been tested in the past, Griffin said. Cosmetic companies can refer to the list instead of conducting their own tests
“If they’ve been tested in the past, they don’t need to be tested in the future,” she said. “So companies, for the most part, just reformulate using the ingredients that are already listed on the list.”
Rabbits with swollen eyes are no longer a common sight in cosmetic labs, said Griffin. Eye irritation experiments are now often carried out on cell cultures.
Amanda Nordstrom, a research associate in the laboratory investigation department at PETA, said animal testing isn’t necessary.
“The tests are excruciating. The animals suffer and are in tiny cages and are almost always killed.”