As another year ends, the U.S. falls one more year behind in matching global progress in phasing out animal testing for cosmetics. In a difficult political climate, this is an issue that could be a shining example of unity as it is replete with support from companies, consumers, and legislators on both sides of the aisle. Perhaps this bright possibility has simply been eclipsed by issues with darker shadows, or perhaps there are lingering questions about how or why the U.S. should finally take this step.
Industry, consumers, and animals all benefit from an end to animal testing for cosmetics, and the time has come for the U.S. to get onboard. Here’s why:
As the one of the largest cosmetics markets in the world, the EU’s experience post-ban is particularly illustrative. Any product developed using animal testing after March 2013 cannot be sold in the EU, creating a significant economic disadvantage to the use of animal tests for new ingredients.
As the five-year anniversary of the EU’s landmark decision approaches, we can clearly see that it has not damaged U.S. exports of cosmetics to the European Union — in fact, trade has increased. Between 2010 and 2016 when EU laws restricting animal testing were phasing in, U.S. cosmetics exports to the EU rose by 46 percent.
The EU experience also shows that small cosmetics businesses and innovation continue to thrive. Since the EU animal testing rules came into effect, the number of small and medium-sized companies working in cosmetics and toiletries in the EU has continued to grow. There are now over 4,900 in the EU — and their numbers continue to increase.
Europeans still have a wide variety of safe cosmetics available to them, and indeed, modern non-animal test methods are often more reliable than animal tests. These alternative tests use simple organisms like bacteria, or tissues and cells from humans, and sophisticated computer models or chemical methods; they are widely available and are comparable in price or less expensive than animal tests.
It is important to point out that most traditional animal tests have never been validated for their use in reliably detecting the safety of cosmetics ingredients. This means that there has not been an independently controlled assessment of whether the animal test accurately and reliably predicts human reactions. The validity of existing animal tests is assumed only, based on a long history of their use. This is simply not adequate for today’s high safety standards.
Prioritizing modern alternatives also provides an opportunity to further advance the alternative testing market in the U.S. Following the EU’s animal testing restrictions, there was a surge in growth in this industry — there are now 33 scientific facilities working on alternatives to animal testing (CTPA). Internationally, the alternative testing market is expected to reach $8.74 billion (U.S.D) by 2022 — up from an estimated $6.34 billion (U.S.D) in 2017, with the U.S. expected to hold the largest share. This growth is widely attributed to the growing adoption of alternative methods in the cosmetics industry.
Increasing consumer demand for cruelty free cosmetics has led to hundreds of successful cosmetics companies of all sizes, voluntarily opting not to test their products on animals and to support globally consistent rules on this issue.
The Humane Cosmetics Act, sponsored and led by Reps. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up GOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster MORE (R-Ariz.), and Don Beyer (D-Va.), has the bipartisan support of 149 House cosponsors in the 115th Congress.
The Act would phase out animal testing for cosmetics in the United States within one year of enactment and would prohibit the sale of cosmetics tested on animals within three years of enactment. This provides a perfect opportunity for the U.S. to align cosmetics policy with modern science, global trends and consumer expectation. The time has come for the U.S. to consign animal testing for cosmetics to the history books.
Jessie Macneil-Brown is international head of campaigns for The Body Shop. Monica Engebretson is North American campaign manager for Cruelty Free International, an organization that advocates against animal testing.