I’m mad right now. I should’ve screen-shot that comment in L’Oreal Paris Sugar Scrub Instagram ad targeting German consumers I saw yesterday on my IG feed (I currently live in Germany, hence, the German ad). The ad received tons of comments which are mainly about people not buying L’Oreal products because they still test on animals and how they can make their own sugar scrubs themselves (which I definitely DO NOT RECOMMEND). To L’Oreal’s defence, a commenter said something in the line of ‘oh God, animal testing is banned in the EU since 3 years ago..’
Right there and then, I knew she was not entirely right but my limited German language skills prevented me from efficiently participate in a Instagram argument – assuming that it’ll escalate to that.
So yeah, I’m mad and I’m writing an entire blog post about this topic.
What does ‘cruelty-free’ mean and how did it all started?
According to PETA, ‘cruelty-free’ means that a product and its ingredients weren’t tested on animals. The purpose of animal testing for the beauty industry is to test the safety and hypoallergenic properties of products for use by humans. It all started in 1937 when a pharmaceutical company put out a medicine called Elixir Sulfanilamide in the market without any scientific research which led to a poisoning outbreak and over 100 deaths. This tragedy led to a law passed in 1938 called the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Companies responded by looking to animals to test their products and eventually created cosmetic animal testing.
The term ‘cruelty-free’ is not interchangeable and should not be mistaken with ‘vegan’, which essentially means that a product does not contain any animal ingredients or animal-derived ingredients. A product may not contain any ingredient derived from animals but the end product may have been tested on animals. Of course, it would be ideal and definitely possible to have a product being both cruelty-free and vegan.
Read more: Cruelty-free vs. Vegan
Is there any alternative to animal testing?
Yes, there are. In fact, these alternatives are often seen as more reliable than animal testing. In vitro test called EpiDerm which use cultured human skin cells was found to be more accurate in identifying chemical skin irritants. The use of synthetic skin called Corrositex to test chemicals for corrosivity – to see if the substance will corrode or burn skin – can be used instead of animals. Research companies like NOTOX have developed a synthetic model of the human liver to conduct tests on ingredients to see if the liver can detox those elements.
We have enough data and the technology to bring an end to animal testing.
Animal testing for cosmetic products are banned in European Union (EU), UK, Norway, India, Israel and New Zealand. Big victory? Not really.
According to L’Oreal, they have stopped testing their products on animals in 1989 but…
“… since 2014, certain products manufactured and sold in China like shampoo, body wash or certain make-up are no longer tested on animals.”
CERTAIN PRODUCTS. NOT ALL PRODUCTS.
In China, cosmetic products manufactured outside the country MUST be tested on animals before it can enter the market and be sold in stores in mainland China. Brands like L’Oreal Paris, Nivea, Dior, Kiehl’s, Clinique and Olay must co-operate with this law in order to enter the Chinese market and pay fees which in turn, may fund the required animal testing.
Here’s an infographic by Ethical Elephant to help you understand China’s Animal Testing Law.
TL;DR If a brand is selling their products in mainland China, they are by default, NOT CRUELTY-FREE. The banning of animal testing in EU and other countries simply means that the products and ingredients manufactured in these respective countries are not tested on animals. That is why you can still see non-cruelty free brands like Maybelline, Revlon and L’Oreal Paris being sold in stores all over EU, despite EU’s ban on animal testing.
I admit that I still use products from brands which are not cruelty-free. The transition to 100% cruelty-free is slow but it’s a sure one. My gripe wasn’t with the commenter’s support of L’Oreal and this blog post isn’t exclusively directed to her. It’s the lack of effort to properly educate oneself on the matter while going around trying to ‘educate’ others that gets to me and made me write this post with a self-evident title.
Learn more about cruelty-free brands and support them by buying their products. Your money is your vote. Let’s be the generation to end animal testing!