Friday, 2 November 2012

Animal testing - major company eats its words

Just recently I stumbled across a story about Avon (the cosmetics company, not the river). I have used Avon products in the past and I know several people who use them now. I had been happy to use them because according to their website and various other sources, their products were not tested on animals.

Their website had stated ‘In 1989, Avon was the first major beauty company to stop testing products and ingredients on animals. Avon does not test products or ingredients on animals, nor do we request others do so on our behalf.’

However, at the same time, its global corporate website contradicted this. It clearly stated that of the circa 9,000 different products it sells in over 100 countries, in 2011, under 0.3 per cent of these were tested on animals.

0.3 per cent of 9000 products - just under 27 products. That may not sound like a lot but the number of animal tests that could have been involved in the development and manufacture of those 27 products could be well into the thousands. 

Each product or ingredient has to be tested for about 15 toxins, and one single test can involve killing around 1,000 animals. So that's potentially 15,000 animals per test. Even if it were only that figure per product (as opposed to per ingredient) that could be 405,000 animals. If you take it as 15,000 animals killed per individual ingredient, the number is too big to contemplate. 

Avon's global website stated that animal testing is only done ‘when required by law’ and that its goal is to get the number to zero. Avon have said that no products sold in the UK have been tested on animals but admitted that some non-EU countries may insist on carrying out their own "safety" testing. It also states ‘The only reason a product is tested on animals is because some governments have yet to accept the use of scientifically valid alternative approaches to safety assessment.’

I took this from Avon's website today: "Some select products may be required by law in a few countries to undergo additional safety testing, which potentially includes animal testing, under the directive of a government or health agency. In these instances, Avon will first attempt to persuade the requesting authority to accept non-animal test data. When those attempts are unsuccessful, Avon must abide by local laws and submit the products for additional testing. In 2011, this affected three tenths of one percent of Avon's products."

405,000 animals killed just so that a company can sell 27 products of its 9000-strong range. Why? Why not ditch those products? Or why not refuse to sell at all in countries where they carry out animal testing themselves on the products? Or refuse to sell to countries where cosmetics cannot go on public sale unless they have been tested on animals at some stage? Why? Simple. Money. For example, the cosmetics market in China is worth £10,000,000,000,000 (yup, £10 billion) and the Chinese government insists that any cosmetic product sold in China must have been tested on animals before they will licence its sale.
I disagree entirely with their statement "When those attempts [to persuade the requesting authority to accept non-animal test data] fail, Avon must abide by local laws and submit the products for additional testing". Simply not true. They have another option - they could simply choose not to sell those particular products in that country. No-one is forcing them to sell there.

Over the summer, several companies were told to remove the Cruelty Free International "Leaping Bunny" logo from their products after they chose to return to animal testing in order to sell to China. You can read The Independent's story on this here.

The argument put forward by some companies has been that  it would be unfair to deny the citizens of some countries access to their products just because that country's government insists on animal testing. They also say that they are better placed to "fight the system" from within. 

In my opinion, that's nonsense. If enough people in one country wanted to buy a particular product but were prevented from doing so because the company involved flatly refused to test on animals and the government insisted on those tests having been carried out, it would have far more effect if the citizens started to hassle the government about the issue. Instead of withholding their products and perhaps helping people to petition the government to lift those rules, the companies find it easier and simpler to agree to carry out animal testing on the products that are going to be sold in those countries. What a cop-out. So much for principles.

So take a good look at what's on your dressing table and in your bathroom cabinet. Whilst you might be sure that the products haven't physically been animal-tested in the UK, are you sure that the company that makes them isn't conducting or agreeing to external animal tests in other countries? Is that pot of lotion or that mascara worth the lives of over 400,000 animals? Is it worth the life of even one animal? Do as much research as you can if you're determined to be as cruelty-free as possible.

You might be surprised to learn that on the Go Cruelty Free website, there are only 100 cosmetics companies certified cruelty-free, and only 18 household product manufacturers. Given the number of companies in existence in both those categories, those are shockingly low figures.

The following website may well help you:

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