In a move that has come as a surprise to many, China’s Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) has announced plans to end its mandatory requirements for animal testing of cosmetics products that are manufactured domestically at the beginning of next summer.
The Humane Society International (HSI) estimates that as many as 300,000 rabbits, mice and other animals may be used in chemical testing for cosmetics every year in China alone. Under the new plan, Chinese companies that are making “non-special use cosmetics,” like shampoo or perfume, will be allowed to forego animal tests and use existing data for raw ingredients or non-animal tests that have been validated by the European Union, which animal advocates hope will spare thousands of lives from unnecessary suffering.
“This news from China marks a major milestone in our campaign and could constitute a significant watershed moment in our global effort to end cosmetics animal testing worldwide. HSI’s team has prioritized efforts to transform the future for animals in laboratories in China. This development is only the beginning of what we hope to be a paradigm shift towards 21st-century science without animals,” said Troy Seidle, HSI’s Be Cruelty-Free director.
The CFDA also stated that the new system may be expanded to include imported products as well, which HSI points out would remove trade barriers and allow cruelty-free companies to sell their products in China.
China’s animal testing requirements haven’t just been a horrible curse for animals in labs, but have also been a problem for companies who want to expand there, but are unwilling to compromise their cruelty-free values. It has also been a problem for others that have claimed to be cruelty-free, but have misled consumers by conceding to China’s testing requirements to sell there.
For consumers who are choosing products because they are cruelty-free, it’s kind of a big deal as some companies, including Urban Decay, learned the hard way after infuriating its loyal customers with an announcement to hit China’s market. Other companies, including Avon, Estee Lauder and Mary Kay have found themselves in the hot seat over their false cruelty-free claims, which resulted in a class action lawsuit.
The European Union, Israel and India have banned animal testing for cosmetics, which has also proven to be problematic for some companies. The requirements to test on animals in some markets and bans on testing in others leave companies with a dilemma about where to sell. It’s also forced unnecessarily and leads to duplicate testing with animals even though their products are already safely being sold in other markets. Fortunately, the trend seems to be moving away from using animals for safety testing.
‘This breakthrough will mean that the last global regulatory body that required animal testing is ready to accept alternatives for the majority of cosmetics. While we are awaiting details and final confirmation of the draft, potentially this could transform the situation in China for ethical cosmetic companies who have up to now refused to sell in China in order to remain in the Leaping Bunny accreditation scheme, which bars cosmetics whose ingredients are tested on animals. We also welcome the role of the European Commission, who have told us they have been offering technical support and advice to China in this area,” said Michelle Thew, Cruelty Free International’s chief executive.
The Leaping Bunny program requires companies that carry its signature leaping bunny logo to pledge not to test on animals at any stage of development and remain open to independent audits in order to stay certified. The program is managed by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) in the U.S. and Canada, while the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection manages it in the UK and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments manages it in Europe. Even products that are simply labeled “not tested on animals” or “cruelty-free” may have been tested by other companies, at the ingredient level or at certain stages of development.
The CFDA’s plan is still under review and has a few caveats, but it’s still a huge step towards ending animal testing for cosmetics on a global level. Meanwhile, animal advocacy groups including HSI have vowed to continue to work with the Chinese government towards a complete ban.
For more info on cruelty-free products, visit gocrueltyfree.org.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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