The European Union banned the sale of new animal-tested cosmetics yesterday and hopes to set an example that will reverberate throughout the cosmetics industry all across the world. Whether this will happen remains to be seen.
The European Union decided to ban cosmetics with ingredients tested on animals a decade ago but gave cosmetics companies ten years to come up with alternative forms of tests. The ban took effect yesterday, but some companies feel the ban is kicking in before alternative tests are fully viable.
As The Inquisitrpreviously reported, L’Oreal will respect the ban but is concerned that the new policy could complicate relationships with countries such as China, which requires animal-testing on cosmetics sold to its consumers. Cosmetics Europe claims that it will be difficult to develop new products since alternative tests for risks such as genetic mutation and reproductive toxicity are not ready.
“Europe’s idea is to put more pressure on other parts of the world to end animal testing, but the science doesn’t match that political timetable,” Colin Mackay, a Cosmetics Europe spokesperson, said in The New York Times.
There is a chance that European consumers will not have access to the latest products because those ingredients cannot yet be verified as safe without access to suitable testing. In cases where companies can sell products to Europe, identical products may ship to different markets with different tests verifying their safety.
It is uncertain whether the US will enact a similar ban. The US is traditionally more hesitant to issue economic regulations, for Europe has had stricter food mandates and gun control provisions in place for years without its influence spreading overseas. Animal-tested cosmetics may not disappear unless companies decide for themselves that the practice is no longer necessary.
The European Union does have allies in the US working towards the same cause. The Humane Society of the United States has long campaigned against testing cosmetics on animals, and has coined this week the inaugural Be Cruelty-Free Week to coincide with the European Union’s ban. The organization wants to push the United States to become the next cruelty-free market and cite a recent Lake Research Partners poll suggesting that a majority of Americans oppose testing cosmetics on animals.
“As these poll results demonstrate, U.S. companies still conducting tests on animals need to move away from these practices given the public’s concern for animal suffering and human safety,” Pascaline Clerc, HSUS senior director of animal research issues, said in a press release.
Absent strong economic backlash or heavy political pressure, companies in the US are not likely to voluntary drop animal-tested cosmetics. If they ship a product that is ultimately deemed unsafe, the fallout would be worse than any pressure they currently receive. Nevertheless, a shift may come in the future as the science matures and companies adjust to the European market.