It’s common knowledge that much of the cosmetic and personal care industry tests products on animals. Despite advances in technology, animal experiments are still particularly cruel—and surprisingly ineffective in determining a product’s safety. That’s why the European Union recently announced that after years of delays, it’s finally banning the import and sale of all animal-tested products and ingredients, starting March 11.
This is a landmark moment for animal rights’ activists. Still, no such ban is on tap for the U.S. And while consumer campaigns have created an economic demand for cruelty-free products, some of the largest conglomerates continue to use animal testing methods, leaving Stateside consumers wondering which products are safe.
In the absence of prohibitive mandates, PETA’s “Beauty Without Bunnies” database provides shoppers with detailed information on hundreds of personal-care labels, dividing them by category and allowing consumers the ability to see at a glance which products are tested on animals.
PETA’s vice president of laboratory research, Kathy Guillermo, tells TakePart that despite the EU ban, consumers around the world need to keep themselves informed because, “We still have a long ways to go before animals stop dying for eye shadow.”
Beauty Without Bunnies is an exhaustive list, but some notable personal care lines that do employ animal testing include M.A.C. Cosmetics, Maybelline, Dove, Estee Lauder, Febreze, Aveeno and Aquafresh. Among the labels that are cruelty-free are Bare Escentuals, Dermalogica, Burt’s Bees, Crabtree & Evelyn and Conair.
Some might assume that if animal testing is so widely employed, it must be because the practice is necessary to ensure consumer safety. Not so, says Stacy Malkan, the president of The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, an organization that champions stricter legislation to protect consumers from harmful chemicals. She tells TakePart, “…Animal testing is absolutely not necessary for cosmetics. The cosmetics companies already know which chemicals in their products are toxic.”
What’s more, studies show that cosmetics-related animal testing isn’t necessarily a reliable predictor of a product’s safety for human beings. In fact, Scientific American reports that there are alternative testing practices that have so far shown to be much more precise.
So why hasn’t the FDA stepped in? The agency, which has never required animal testing, also hasn’t mandated any other kind of preliminary research before cosmetics and personal-care products hit store shelves. Malkan says that for 70 years, the FDA has kept “the same cosmetic regulations that let manufacturers put almost any chemical into products with little safety testing. It’s almost anything goes here in the U.S.”
And while it may seem to some that with advances in technology, animal experiment methods must have advanced as well, the practices employed today closely mirror their earliest versions from the 1930s. Rabbits, guinea pigs, and even dogs endure chemicals that are dripped into their eyes, onto their raw skin, or forcibly pumped into their stomaches. Kept in that state for a period of up to three weeks in order to gauge their reactions, the animals are given no anesthesia. And once the experiment is over, they are euthanized.
It’s a draconian practice. But even without legislation, consumers aren’t powerless to stop it. Corporations change their methods in relation to their bottom line. Take your money elsewhere, and (eventually) they will take note.
Do you make an effort to steer clear of products that are animal tested? Let us know in the Comments.
Related Stories on TakePart:
• Animal Testing Gone Wild: Second Monkey Dies at Bristol Meyers
• The End of Animal Testing?
• Laboratory Liberation: Freedom May Come Soon for Research Monkeys
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a web editor for locally based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com