What's Up With Testing Cosmetics on Animals?

Illustration for article titled What's Up With Testing Cosmetics on Animals?

If you are looking for someone who supports testing cosmetics on animals, well good luck.


Recently, a bipartisan bill was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives that would ban animal testing and, really, no one is opposing it.

According to the Humane Society’s Senior Director, Policy and Advocacy, Pascaline Clerc, Humane Cosmetics Act, H.R.2858 would bring the United States in line with the 30 other countries that have banned animal testing of cosmetics.

Right now, the U.S. does not require animal testing for cosmetics. And according to a statement by John Hurson, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, Personal Care Products Council, most companies don’t test much on animals any way. Hurson states that animal testing of cosmetics largely ended in the 1980s and is only considered by the industry if it’s required by the government.

There are several reasons animal testing has declined in the past few decades. According to Clerc, most ingredients in makeup have already been extensively tested and determined to be safe. There are very few companies out there making new ingredients and the few that are have other methods of testing available. Clerc notes that many companies use artificial skin, eyeballs from slaughterhouses, and L’Oreal recently started working with a bio-tech company to 3-D print skin. Clerc noted that there are no alternatives to testing products for cancer, but added that since most of the ingredients are already deemed safe, this is only an issue for companies who are innovating.

Of course, it’s not like research labs are going to free all their bunnies if this bill passes. Clerc admits that there is a lot of cross over between ingredients used in cosmetics and in over-the-counter drugs. Ingredients that are approved for use in over-the-counter drugs are subject to rigorous testing and yes, that includes on animals.

When I asked Clerc if she thought this meant that industry would try to side-step a bill that outlawed animal testing on cosmetics, by claiming they were all drugs, she said she didn’t think so. “Most companies have adjusted to not using animal testing by now, most ingredients are deemed safe and the industry is investing in new technologies for testing, trying to get around the rules is not an issue.”


The bill seems to be all fur and no fangs, which might explain why it went nowhere the first time it was introduced in the previous congressional year. Further, enforcing the bill would be a problem since the FDA doesn’t have the mandate or the money to just bust into a lab and free animals. Enforcement would be self-regulated. Clerc noted that after a similar ban was passed in the European Union in 2013, the Humane Society set up a hotline for people to report violations. Clerc said she knew of no reported violations and admitted that this may be because the practice of testing cosmetics on animals has largely ended.

So, why pass the bill then? If animal testing is such a moot point, why even bother? Clerc claims that it’s necessary to outlaw the practice. “Just because most companies don’t, doesn’t mean they won’t,” she said. Also, it’s a symbolic gesture to pressure other countries like China that do require animal testing on their cosmetics. Clerc stresses the need for the U.S. to set a precedent on the issue so that it won’t happen in other countries.


This bill is a cause célèbre for celebrities. Kesha made a video with cute bunnies! Peter Dinklage is in on it and so is Colbie Cailet and Ricky Gervais and probably anyone else you ask. A poll done by Neilsen showed that 57% of Americans believe that being “cruelty free” is one of the most important labels they look for on their cosmetics. Hell, even Big Makeup is for it. Although, they made one little dig at the bill in the statement, noting, “Our industry has long advocated for government recognition and acceptance of alternative testing methods. Unfortunately, the Food & Drug Administration has not recognized many alternative tests – we hope removing this obstacle will emerge as a key provision of H.R. 2858.”


Good luck, bunnies! Kesha and I are rooting for you.

Illustration by Tara Jacoby.



Just for the fun of it, I’m going to wade in. Before the ad-hominem attacks, and everyone telling me that I am a horrible, disgusting person who is going to spend eternity being painted with acid cosmetics by too cute bunny demons, let me say the following:

I think that torturing animals is disgusting and reprehensible, and there was never any call for it.

Now, having said that: how comfortable are you about products being tested on people? You, your friends, and your kids? Because if it isn’t tested on animals, it’s being tested on you, the consumer.

Yes, I read the article. But note:

Clerc noted that there are no alternatives to testing products for cancer, but added that since most of the ingredients are already deemed safe, this is only an issue for companies who are innovating.

So, cosmetics are ok, because we are ok without innovation? And without being a ridiculous alarmist, how many items were we pretty sure that had no biological effect, turned out to have one? Because testing on dead eyeballs and cloned skin is not the same. Those aren’t complete biological systems

You may commence flaming me now, I guess.