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Cosmetic animal testing could return to the UK

A policy which banned animal testing for cosmetic products in 1998 could be reversed to verify the safety of popular ingredients in makeup and skincare.

Animal testing has been considered a controversial practice since the 1960s.

While it is generally accepted in global scientific research for the purpose of developing prescription medicine, using live creatures to test the safety of beauty products is largely viewed as unethical.

For that reason, more than forty countries – including every country in the EU – have banned or strictly limited cosmetic animal testing.

Despite this, over half a million animals are used for this purpose each year in places such as the USA and China.

Why is animal testing making a comeback?

Last year, The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) suggested that two substances only found in cosmetic products need to be tested to see if they are safe for humans.

To satisfy chemical regulations put in place by the ECHA, a German firm called Symrise carried out animal tests for the pair of chemicals, once of which acts as a UV filter.

Technically, this was a breach of the EU’s policy which restricts animal testing for cosmetics – but it was allowed to go ahead in the interest of public health.

Now, ministers are considering softening current animal testing bans in the UK to align itself with the EU’s new chemical regulations.

The decision has been met with anger and disappointment from campaigners who had previously labelled the UK as a leader in animal rights and protection policies.

The charity Cruelty Free International (CFI) has called reverting to ‘cruel and unjustifiable’ animal testing a ‘mockery of the country’s quest to be at the cutting edge of research and innovation’.

There are roughly 100 cosmetics-only ingredients that could need safety checks under ECHA’s regulations – meaning thousands of animals could suffer in the process.

Although Brexit means that the UK is no longer required to adhere to EU standards, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume the government will follow its neighbour’s standards regarding health and safety in the future.

The fact that the products we lather onto our faces everyday may contain unregulated and potentially harmful chemicals is worrying.

At the same time, most can agree that our own vanity shouldn’t mean subjecting other living beings to a life of harmful testing regimes within the stressful environment of a laboratory.

What are the alternatives?

Truthfully, there is no reason to regress back to animal testing.

In fact, 84 percent of people surveyed in 2020 said they would not buy a product if they knew it was tested on animals.

Many beauty brands already pride themselves on being cruelty-free, using natural ingredients or requesting human volunteers to test products in their developmental stages.

The UK’s adherence to the EU’s regulations is not yet set in stone, but we can all play our part in resisting unethical practices by avoiding products that take part in them.

You can find a comprehensive and regularly updated list of cruelty-free beauty brands here.


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