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Image from StopEUChemicalTests.comEU Can't Sell Your Cosmetics 'Ere - Animal Tested Cosmetics Rejected by Euro MPs

The European Union (EU) appears finally to be heading towards a ban on not only animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients, but also a ban on the marketing on animal-tested products (including products with animal-tested ingredients) within the EU.


About 38,000 animals are tortured and killed in European cosmetic tests every year. In November 1998 the UK Government announced no new licenses would be granted for animal tests for cosmetics. The term 'cosmetics' includes finished products and ingredients, and covers all 'personal care' products like make-up, deodorant, shampoo and toothpaste.

However, it only affected 1,300 animals out of over 2.5 million vivisected and killed every year in the UK. Only the Netherlands introduced similar measures. Other countries have either introduced a partial ban, such as Austria and Germany or, like Denmark, have simply not conducted cosmetics tests on animals for some years (though no legislation exists to prevent them from doing so).

Because there is no world-wide ban, the vast majority of cosmetics products and/or their ingredients sold in the UK will almost certainly have been tested on animals - but the test will have taken place in another country. This demonstrates the need for coherent and co-ordinated legislation on animal experiments across Europe and the rest of the world.

The testing of cosmetics products in the rest of the world continues unabated. In the United States for example, where many well-known cosmetics manufacturers are based (eg. Procter & Gamble), there is not even legislation in place to ensure that laboratories collate accurate statistics on the number of animals they use in cosmetics research. In Japan there is almost no legislative protection for laboratory animals.

Half Baked

A marketing and ingredients testing ban was initially put forward 8 years ago, but has suffered incessant postponement and disruption following intense pressure and self-interested manoeuvering from the cosmetics industry. When it finally seemed that the legislation (Council Directive 76/768/EEC) would be introduced, the Commission smothered it by extra-ordinary behind-the-scenes manoeuvring of its own. Late on Wednesday 5th April 2000, EU Commissioner Erkki Liikanen bypassed the European Parliament, and forced through a much weakened proposal, of a test ban on finished products and a ban on ingredients after three years (which can be postponed should "validated alternative methods" not be available) - but no marketing ban.

The EC appears to have been unwilling to make a stand in the face of the 'free-trade' behemoths of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the United States, and huge multinational cosmetic companies. The EU had recently emerged from costly trade wars over Caribbean bananas from US-backed competition, and 'hormone-enhanced' beef from the US.

In a statement, Liikanen said:

"In its current wording, the Cosmetics Directive... would appear to raise certain difficulties in relation to the WTO... the Commission therefore proposes to modify the ban in order to ensure its WTO-compatability and to make it legally and practically enforceable."

The UK Labour Government said in response to Parliamentary Questions that it voted against a marketing ban for cosmetics because it "would risk challenge under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules." However, it does not follow that a "risk" automatically would become a successful WTO challenge - especially if the Government or the EU had the will to defend its position.

Mr. Watts, Labour MEP and party spokesman on animal welfare, described the amendments as "half baked" and "meaningless."

Originally, mandatory labelling for animal-tested products (until the final sale ban) was also proposed. However, the European Commission proposed an amendment that had the potential to destroy cruelty-free labelling. The proposal stated that cruelty-free labelling may only appear on a product, provided "'neither the finished product, nor its prototype, nor any of the ingredients contained in it have ever been the subject of such [animal] tests..." This would make cruelty-free labelling impossible because just about every cosmetic contains an ingredient - even water! - that will have been tested on animals at some time in the past

Well Done

However, on 3rd April 2001 these amendments - made by the unelected European Commission - were overturned in a vote in the democratically elected European Parliament. This followed lobbying led by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV). Parliament voted not only for the proposed testing ban (for cosmetic products and ingredients), but also to preserve the ban on marketing. The ban should come into force immediately for ingredients where other validated testing methods exist, and in five years after the adoption of the directive. To ensure WTO compliance, producers in third countries would have to be treated in a way equivalent to Community producers, with no discriminatory treatment.

Another amendment asks for manufacturers who have carried out animal tests after the date of implementation to label the packaging with "Tested on animals" in easily legible lettering covering at least 20 % of the total surface area.

Parliament calls for funding from the Sixth Framework Research Programme for the development of new non-animal testing methods. It also wants the ingredients of cosmetic products to be listed in full. In line with the opinion of the Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-Food Products, Parliament also adopted an amendment calling for fragrance allergens to be labelled with their name. An amendment calling for the insertion of the phrase 'can cause an allergic reaction in the case of susceptible or sensitive skins' was defeated.

In the debate the MEP Ms Roth-Behrendt rejected accusations that this directive would represent a violation of WTO regulations. She referred to the recently adopted US 'dog and cat fur act,' a law prohibiting the production and the importing of fur products from cats and dogs. The justification given for the act is that such products are detrimental to public moral standards and to animal protection. The same moral standards, she argued, should apply to testing on animals.
[Dagmar ROTH-BEHRENDT (PES, D) Report on the proposal for a European Parliament and Council directive amending for the seventh time Council Directive 76/768/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to cosmetic products (COM(2000) 189 - C5-0244/2000 - 2000/0077(COD))]

Bring to the Boil

It is vital that the European Parliament and EU governments adopt a complete sales ban on new cosmetics tested on animals after a fixed date, in addition to a test ban. There is still a long way to go before the Cosmetics Directive is finalised, and the animal testing cosmetics industry will oppose it all the way.

A sales ban is necessary to provide the incentive for the cosmetic industry and governments to urgently develop and accept alternative test methods that don't use live animals.

The EU can and should defend a sales ban under WTO rules if challenged. It is unacceptable that the Commission and our own government are happy to reverse existing legislation on the assumption that there may be a problem.

The only way to progress animal welfare, environmental and human rights trade legislation is to challenge the spectre of the WTO. The European Parliament has itself favoured this approach.

The BUAV, who have led the campaign on this issue and suggest the following people to write to:

  • Write to your MEP asking them to back a sale ban on animal tested cosmetics within the EU. You can find out your MEP at the European Parliament website www.europarl.eu.int.
  • Write to Caroline Jackson MEP Chair of the Environment Committee and urge her to support a ban on the sale of cosmetics tested on animals. Write to Caroline Jackson MEP Euro Office, 14 Bath Road, Swindon SN1 4BA.

Express your objection to the European Commission's proposals on "cruelty free" labelling.

  • Write to the Department of Trade and Industry and ask it to support the BUAV's "Save cruelty-free labelling" campaigning by withdrawing support for European Commission proposals within the 7th amendment to the Cosmetics Directive that directly threaten the future of EU-wide cruelty-free labelling.
  • Write to Dr Kim Howells MP, Minister for Consumer & Corporate Affairs, Department of Trade and Industry, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET, Fax: 020 7222 2629.
  • Write to Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission and demand that the Commission withdraws its disastrous proposals on "cruelty free" labelling.
  • Write to Professor Romano Prodi President of the European Commission, 200 rue de la Loi, B-1049 Bruxelles, Belgium.

For more information contact the BUAV: 16a Crane Grove, London N7 8LB; Tel: 0207 700 4888; Website: www.buav.org; email: info@buav.org.

Uncaged Campaigns 08.05.01


Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.