In March 2013 a new EU law was fully implemented that made it illegal to sell animal-tested cosmetics in Europe, even if the testing was conducted outside Europe. This sales ban made it clear that animal testing is unacceptable and immoral in today's society, with so many superior, cheaper and more effective alternatives now available to companies around the world. The 2013 ban was the culmination of a vigorous and long-standing public campaign against animal-tested cosmetics (critically not just for finished products but also for their ingredients.) Until this point (after a 2009 update to the law) tests were banned in Europe, but products tested elsewhere could still be imported. Put simply, right now no product sold in the UK will have been tested on animals - and nor will the ingredients featured within it.
So why is there so much confusion? Although companies can’t sell animal-tested cosmetics in Europe, they can continue to test cosmetics on animals outside Europe and sell them in other markets. Many large emerging territories, including the hugely controversial Chinese market, are still demanding that cosmetics be tested on animals in the 'interests of safety'. So your favourite lipstick brand may be refusing to test their ingredients or finished products on animals within the European Union, but if they're selling in China then they're definitely testing somewhere along the line. Outside of the EU it's still not against the law to test on animals, with countries including the US, Israel, Brazil and Korea still frequently testing ingredients and end products on our fluffy friends. That's where the confusion crops in and where consumers struggle for clarification.
Some horrendous practices take place that involve force feeding, rubbing chemicals on skin, dripping substances into eyes and technique called 'lethal dose' that involves forcing animals to eat a certain amount of a toxic chemical until it kills them. It's just not acceptable to conduct experiments like this in the name of beauty, but legislative change is notoriously slow. What's even worse is that animal testing is still common place for household and cleaning products; beauty companies often have a sister branch that produce these kind of products, meaning that there's no guarantee that a brand making your favourite perfume won't still be testing their air freshener on a guinea pig. It's all well and good shouting about your 'cruelty free' pledge, but if your parent company is still conducting the very experiments you're claiming to campaign against then it doesn't stand for much.
There's also rather large loophole which goes by the name of REACH. The European Commission (EC) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) are insisting on testing the chemicals used in cosmetics for which there’s a possibility of workforce exposure during manufacturing processes. This means that even though the brand may want to abide by the 2013 legislation and stop animal testing completely, they're often being forced to test ingredients anyway. If there's a chance the guy in the factory could be exposed to a raw ingredient when making your mascara, then that ingredient still needs to be tested in order to be put on sale. I've tried to research into this and it's ridiculously hard to find out any information that's consumer friendly; unfortunately the only way to be completely sure that you aren’t indirectly supporting animal testing is to continue to purchase products only from companies that display the Leaping Bunny symbol.
The ‘Leaping Bunny’ symbol is the only globally recognised guarantee that a brand has made a genuine commitment to ending animal testing for its products. Certified companies must meet rigorous criteria, including independent audits that check the entire supply chain, before they’re allowed to display the logo on their products. Brands including Paul Mitchell, Liz Earle, The Body Shop and Burt's Bees all carry the stamp of approval, but many others are making up their own in order to pull the wool over consumers eyes and give the impression of an ethical operation. It's the most confusing area of the beauty industry, not helped by the levels of contradictory legislation that make it hard for brands and consumers alike. Although the majority of brands currently within my portfolio don't carry the Leaping Bunny mark (click here for more info and to find out what it looks like,) the research into the topic has made me much more aware of those that do.
Your purchasing decisions are your own and the level by which you're prepared to compromise is also your own. I'm not one to tell you what's right and wrong, what you should and shouldn't be doing; it's your decision to make based on the evidence presented and your attitudes towards it. Unfortunately it's not as clean cut as deciding not to use products that are tested on animals, when there are so many loopholes and grey areas that brands often have no choice but to abide by. The important thing is to understand as much as possible and celebrate those companies that are going above and beyond to keep our fluffy friends safe from harm. I hope this post has gone a little way in helping you to achieve that...