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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.
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.
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
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.
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:
Express your objection to the European Commission's proposals on "cruelty free" labelling.
Uncaged Campaigns 08.05.01