Although several countries – including Israel, India, Norway, and all of the European Union – ban cosmetic testing on animals, other countries such as Canada and the United States continue to allow them.
What are these tests?
Cosmetics are tested at all stages of manufacturing; the tests are performed on the finished product, as well as on all the ingredients that make it up. These are mainly tests for skin irritation, safety and toxicity. The purpose is to verify whether the product may be toxic or irritating upon use. For methodological purposes, a concentrated dose of the product or ingredient is tested on a large number of animals, mainly on mice, rats, hamsters and rabbits.
Animal experimentation in the field of cosmetics is even crueler than one can imagine. For instance, to test a topical cream, the animals are shaved; a concentrated dose of the product is applied to their skin; and allow the product to react for several days. If a cosmetic is likely to come in contact with our eyes, the test will also consist in applying the cosmetic directly in the animals’ eyes, without any local anesthesia. Rabbits are often used for this procedure, as they do not secrete tears, making it impossible for them to expel the product from their eyes. These tests can inflict injuries and trauma to the laboratory animals; the lesions can range from eye irritations, to actual perforations of the eyeballs. Furthermore, animals who survive these repeated experiments are usually killed afterwards anyway.
Alternatives do exist!
Fortunately, there are alternatives to animal testing. For instance, the use of laboratory grown tissues and cells (moreover, this process yields more accurate results compared to traditional rabbit tests!), or the use of in vitro tests that allow to distinguish toxic ingredients from non-toxic ones, and this without poisoning animals. Another solution is to encourage, or even oblige companies, to manufacture products with safe raw materials and ingredients whose effectiveness has already been proven; eliminating the need to continually resorting to additional tests to create new products.
In 2015, a bill (S-214) was tabled at the Senate of Canada by Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen and supported by Humane Society International/Canada and Animal Alliance of Canada. This legislation would prohibit animal testing for cosmetic products in Canada in addition to prohibiting the importation of newly animal-tested cosmetic products or ingredients from anywhere in the world. A great model to follow!
Make a difference
Visit our list of products not tested on animals to discovery many cruelty-free options!
Marie-Noël Gingras works in the Department of Animal Advocacy at the Montreal SPCA. In the past few years, she has collaborated on numerous projects related to animal rights and welfare (the Vert et Fruité and Vegan Portraits blogs, the Montreal Vegan Festival), as well as collaborated with the Défi végane 21 jours book, published in spring 2016 (Éditions Trécarré). You can follow her on Facebook.