FEATURE: ANIMAL TESTING — IS PAIN REALLY BEAUTY?
The use of fur in the fashion industry is internationally debated with museum exhibits and cruelty-free designers dedicated to publicizing the exploitation of animals. But animals have long been vulnerable to commercial exploitation off the runways in the multi-billion dollar beauty industry. Animal testing is still tightly wound up in the production of some of the most recognizable beauty brands retailed today.
In March 2013, the European Union banned the import and sale of all cosmetics containing animal-tested ingredients–an unprecedented government mandate in the history of animal rights. But in the United States, thousands of laboratories continue to test on animals, despite an intensified push for sustainable practices in the fashion and beauty industries. In the U.S., manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products are not required by law to test on animals, but longstanding processes built into the research and development processes of these companies make change a procedural challenge.
We have all seen depictions of domesticated rabbits, cats and guinea pigs caged in testing laboratories, but what specific product tests do animals endure during cosmetics testing? The Humane Society has compiled a comprehensive list of industry standard procedures that test for a range of variables from skin sensitization to developmental toxicity, or birth defects.
For example: when developing an eye product, such as mascara, beauty labs will apply ingredients directly to the eyes of up to three rabbits to see “signs of redness, bleeding, ulcers, blindness, and/or other signs of damage.” Rats that undergo tests for acute inhalation toxicity are placed into a tube in which they are forced to inhale the test substance. Nose bleeds, seizures, convulsions and even death are then observed to ascertain whether an ingredient would be safe for a cream or lotion. Up to 32 guinea pigs or 16 mice are used to test for skin irritation, resulting in possible ulcers, scaling and inflammation.
Regardless of the results, lab animals are routinely killed at the end of a product test.
The roster of beauty brands that continue to use animal testing unfortunately include some of the most illustrious in the industry. Almay, Clarins of Paris, Bumble & Bumble, Dolce & Gabbana, Guerlain and Kiehl’s are all brands that use animals to test their products. This is partially due to the fact that most luxury cosmetics labels are owned by the same large conglomerates, such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble, and subject to their procedural mandates.
Not surprisingly, more independently operated — and lesser known — brands do not test on animals, going so far as to sign and comply with PETA‘s cruelty-free pledge. Some of the better known brands on PETA’s anti-cruelty list include Aveda, Bath & Body Works, Burt’s Bees, and Diane von Furstenburg Beauty.
Shopping for cruelty-free makeup and skincare is now easier than ever. In fact, there’s an app for that. Cruelty-Cutter is an app developed by the Beagle Freedom Project, named in honor of the roughly 62,000 beagles that die every year in animal experimentation labs. With it, shoppers can scan products at the shelf to see if it has ingredients tested on animals.
“The biggest roadblock for getting rid of cosmetic and product testing in the U.S. is the lack of awareness,” said Kevin Chase, vice president of BFP, to Elle.com. “Most people sadly think animal testing has long since been banned, [which it hasn’t].”
As with any industry-wide practice, changing consumer habits is both the most important — and difficult — challenge to ending animal cruelty in fashion.