This is adapted from an article I wrote for MailOnline in June 2015
When the EU banned cosmetics that had been tested on animals in 2013, there was a collective sigh of relief from creature-lovers everywhere.
But has it put an end to the practice of mice and rabbits being used for tests to ensure make-up is safe for humans? Not entirely.
Loopholes in the law, as well as many brands’ policy of testing outside the EU, mean that many companies which call themselves cruelty-free are actually not.
According to animal rights organisation PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), brands such as L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Olay, Revlon and Clarins are all guilty of testing their products on animals ‘at some stage of development’.
As a result of the 2013 ban, these cosmetic giants sell cruelty-free products in the EU but have to comply with local law abroad – which in some cases demands that creams, lotions and make-up are tested on animals.
For instance, any company which sells its goods in China must submit them to be tested in Chinese laboratories, where more than 300,000 animals are used each year and welfare laws are notoriously slack.
Companies including L’Oreal, Revlon and Olay all have policies on their websites which state that they do not test on animals anywhere in the world. With one proviso: ‘Except when required by law’.
L’Oreal – which claims to invest in the development of humane alternatives – has a policy regarding their no animal-testing which states: ‘An exception could only be made if regulatory authorities demanded it for safety or regulatory purposes.’
PETA’s senior vice president Kathy Guillermo told me: ‘L’Oreal and some other companies word their statements very carefully.
‘In China, the tests are not technically conducted by L’Oreal but the company knows about them, allows them and pays for them.’
She added: ‘It is wonderful that L’Oreal is no longer conducting tests itself and is committed to superior non-animal test methods but allowing these unnecessary poisoning tests to be done by other entities means that L’Oreal cannot be on our list of companies that do not test on animals.’
The discrepancy has its roots in the 2013 EU ban which, while hailed by animal-lovers, left many cosmetic companies furious.
Cosmetics Europe chief Bertil Heerink, quoted by the Associated Press, said: ‘By implementing the ban at this time, the European Union is jeopardising the industry’s ability to innovate’.
This ‘innovation’ is at the cost of tests during which dogs, cats, rabbits and rodents have substances poked into their eyes, forced down their throats and rubbed into open wounds.
China’s $32 billion (£20 billion) beauty market is a huge draw for many companies, but the law means brands who are completely cruelty-free cannot sell their wares there.
In a statement made to Bloomberg in 2013, a spokesman for The Body Shop, which refuses to sell in China on these grounds, said: ‘We would love to open stores in China.
‘We watch closely any developments in the legislation which would enable us to do that without compromising our core beliefs.’
Many companies which do sell in China argue that the only way to enforce a change in their laws is to be a player in the industry.
Wendy Higgins, international communications director of The Humane Society, is wary of this justification. She is spearheading the organisation’s #BeCrueltyFree campaign in the hopes of changing the laws in China so that animal testing there is no longer mandatory.
‘Big beauty brands have been selling in China for years and not actively contributed to accelerating change so I’m sceptical about claims that they need to be in China,’ she told me.
‘Collectively, all those big brands could be extremely influential if only they decided to withdraw from China unless animal testing is banned.
‘Indeed, we’ve explicitly invited one of the biggest players, L’Oreal, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us in actively supporting our legislative efforts. To date it hasn’t taken us up on that offer.’
She adds: ‘We’re making some progress in China. I think we will get there – so far our #BeCrueltyFree campaign has welcomed cosmetics animal testing bans in more than 30 countries, including the EU, Israel, India and New Zealand.
‘As more and more countries turn their backs on cosmetics cruelty, China’s position becomes ever more isolated.’
Sadly, China is not the only country that imposes such conditions. Legal loopholes within the EU’s own laws mean that animal-testing is still on the menu in some cases.
PETA’s Ms Guillermo said: ‘Unfortunately the ban in the EU does not ensure that no animals have been harmed.’
She points to REACH – an EU regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals.
Under REACH, the EU is still insisting on animal tests for chemicals used in cosmetics where there is a possibility of ‘workforce exposure’ during manufacturing processes.
These chemicals could potentially be in a host of beauty products but PETA says there are ways to test them without using animals.
Ms Guillermo said: ‘We do know that there are approximately 100 cases of ingredients that will have to be tested under REACH. We don’t yet know what those chemicals are or what companies are involved.’
She added that other companies who declare themselves cruelty-free side-step these tests.
‘If the EU identifies a chemical for animal testing, the companies can stop using that chemical, just as they can choose not to sell in China. Being cruelty-free is an option for every company.’
And there are plenty of them, according to celebrity make-up artist Justine Jenkins, who is also the Beauty Ambassador for Humane Society International.
‘I do not believe that animals should suffer cruel tests for the sake of beauty. It is unnecessary and outdated,’ she said.
‘There are some amazing cruelty-free brands on the market, some you will know and some you won’t but try them – you may just discover your new favourite product.’
Among them is Sunday Riley, who founded a brand of the same name and said: ‘As a dog owner myself, I’d hate to see any animals subjected to cosmetics testing when there are less cruel and more efficient alternatives.’
English Mineral Make-up, an up-and-coming new brand, said: ‘We passionately feel that no cosmetic should ever involve animal testing, and that you should be informed and aware of anything you put on to you skin.’
Urban Decay, which has repeatedly declined the opportunity to sell in China, say: ‘We do not test our products on animals, nor do we allow others to test on our behalf.
‘Additionally, we require our suppliers to certify that the raw materials used in the manufacture of our products are not tested on animals either.’
And Paula’s Choice founder Paula Begoun, told us: ‘Paula’s Choice has been an animal friendly place of employment for over 20 years. I often had more dogs at meetings than people.
‘My company and I are often amazed that there could be anything else but cruelty-free beauty products. The notion is beyond our comprehension.
‘Being cruelty-free wasn’t a decision. There was no other option for us. Being kind to animals was and will always be the heart of what we do.’
For a full list of the brands which do and don’t test on animals, PETA’s easily-searchable database is very useful