February 3, 2023

Court affirms European ban on cruel cosmetics

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Blinding, poisoning, and killing animals in the name of beauty has never stood a chance in the court of public opinion. But it’s survived for too long as a legal enterprise because industry has thwarted reform with pretenses about the lack of alternatives, and politicians have sidestepped our moral duty to innocent creatures.

However, the expanding use of the “no animal testing” label by more and more companies has not only raised the bar for humane-minded people and given consumers a wonderful option, but it’s also reminded everyone that many cosmetics makers are still testing on animals. Only now they are increasingly the outliers, rather than the mainstream operators.

The label has never been a substitute but merely an antecedent to a bright-line legal standard that forbids any company from poisoning animals for risk assessment for cosmetics.

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In recent years, Humane Society International and its allies have broken through and made big legislative gains in key global cosmetics markets. Today this cruel and obsolete practice took another major blow, this time in the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The court’s ruling forbids any company from relying on the results of animal tests conducted anywhere in the world after March 11, 2013, to “prove” the safety of cosmetic products or their base ingredients for sale in the European Union. This verdict reinforces and extends existing bans on conducting new cosmetic animal testing anywhere in the EU, or selling cosmetics or ingredients that have been subject to new animal testing anywhere in the world.

All this came about as a result of a legal challenge brought by the European Federation for Cosmetic Ingredients, an umbrella group representing specialty chemical companies that manufacture — and test on animals — new ingredients on behalf of cosmetic brands. The industry group claims to have sought “legal certainty” regarding the scope and interpretation of the EU law, yet its representations to the court were clearly directed at narrowing the scope of the European sales ban as far as possible. But the industry’s plan backfired.

Today’s verdict is a victory for everyone who fought so long and hard to achieve the precedent-setting European bans on cosmetic animal testing and trade. It’s a particularly significant win for our BeCrueltyFree campaign, which seeks to give the cosmetics industry a cruelty-free makeover across the globe. Already the campaign has scored victories in the EU, India, New Zealand, and South Korea, with a commitment by the Australian government to follow suit by July 2017, and similar laws pending in Brazil, Canada, Taiwan, the United States, and other countries.

The Humane Cosmetics Act, H.R. 2858, introduced by Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Joe Heck, R-Nev. and Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., has enormous bipartisan support in the U.S. House and has attracted hundreds of endorsements from some of the biggest companies in the cosmetics space.

With Congress having passed and President Obama having signed major reform to chemical testing on animals earlier this year, there hasn’t been a better time for Congress to address the issue and to align the United States with other leading animal-welfare-friendly nations throughout the world to adopt this policy. The United States can then proudly say “no animal testing” anywhere.

P.S. I am delighted to report that the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act (H.R. 2494) passed the House today unanimously, on the heels of its passage through the Senate last week. This bill, which will help protect elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, and other animals threatened by poachers and traffickers, now heads to President Obama for his signature. The HSUS applauds Congress for passing this bill, and is particularly grateful to Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Dianne Feinstein, D- Calif., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., for their leadership on this important issue.