This past Monday, the European Union took a bold legislative step in safeguarding animals from the cruelty of lab testing.
The EU passed a ban, effective immediately, that prohibits the sale of cosmetics produced with ingredients tested on animals in all 27 member nations. The bloc's executive branch, the European Commission, released a statement that the ban "is in line with what many European citizens believe firmly: that the development of cosmetics does not warrant testing." Europeans certainly aren't alone in their conviction: a survey of U.S. women voters found that 72 percent are opposed to the practice of testing cosmetics on animals.
Of course, any improvement to the legal standard of animal welfare provokes the ire of those who profit from the torture and destruction of living creatures. Colin Mackay, a spokesperson for a trade association called Cosmetics Europe, remarked that "consumers in Europe won't have access to new products because we can't ensure that some ingredients will be safe without access to suitable and adequate testing."
"[S]uitable and adequate testing"—industry doublespeak that means force-feeding rabbits lethal volumes of toxic chemicals in order to approximate the dosage that causes death, or rubbing chemicals into creatures' exposed skin and eyes with no pain-killers to see the adverse effects on organic tissue.
Some commentators view the ban as a hint to China, an important trading partner to the European Union. China currently mandates that all cosmetic products be tested on animals before they are sold inside the country. This mandate produces untold suffering, as producers strive to meet legal requirements in order to gain access to the massive and lucrative Chinese market.
And how does the United States fair by comparison? Not too well. While there are no laws that mandate animal testing in cosmetics, it is still legal, and many corporations choose to continue inhumane testing in the absence of cheap alternatives.
The EU ban—while a statement on the dignity and rights of animals—is nonetheless imperfect. A loophole in the law permits the use of animal-tested ingredients that originate in other industries. This means that a substance tested on animals in pharmaceuticals can still make its way into Europe's cosmetics.
Without a categorical disavowal of these practices—regardless of context or industry—the barbarous reality of animal lab testing will continue.
Photo credit: Michael Joosten