It was announced last week that the government is now allowing the use of animal testing for cosmetics ingredients following a two-decade ban.
The changes in policy allow for testing of substances on animals for cosmetics as a “last resort” and to meet the requirements of certain regulations, such as the need to assess risks to manufacturing workers.
Cruelty Free International (CFI) brought a legal challenge against the government for the changes to cosmetics testing regulations which was overruled by the High Court. The government has argued that it is not changing the country’s 1998 policy ban on cosmetics animal testing, but that chemical safety laws, inherited from the European Union, require testing to take place.
The judge agreed with the Home Office’s interpretation of the EU legislation, and it was ruled that neither CFI nor the public had a “legitimate expectation” to be informed about a change in policy position. However, as part of the ruling, a High Court judge told the Home Office that the EU legislation was not in conflict with the UK having a policy prohibiting cosmetics testing on animals and that it can reinstate the ban on animal testing; The Vegan Society, alongside many other organisations and brands, call on the government to do so immediately.
The government’s decision is at odds with public opinion, which widely rejects animal testing. A UK survey in 2020 by the Fund for Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME) found that 84% of respondents would not buy a cosmetics product if they knew it, or one of its ingredients, had been tested on animals.
Recent years have seen numerous advances in science and technology and there are now multiple laboratories leading the way in developing testing solutions that do not use any non-human animal by-products. These tests provide the same accurate results, meaning regulations can be met without exploitation.
Commenting on the ruling, Head of Campaigns, Policy and Research at the Vegan Society, Claire Ogley, said: “It’s deeply concerning that the government has effectively dropped the publicly supported ban on animal testing for cosmetics that has been in place since 1998. Many people will not be aware that it is now legal for cosmetics ingredients to be tested on animals and the British public does not support this. Brexit should be an opportunity for the UK to lead the world in protecting animals, not a chance to row back on these hard-won protections. Now that the High Court has said it can do so, we are calling on the government to reinstate the ban and stand up for the animals who will suffer needlessly.”
Update: Following the uproar in response to this decision, the Government U-turned on the announcement and confirmed that it had banned the issuing of licences for animal testing of chemicals used as ingredients in cosmetics products. This is a real victory for the groups who stood up against animal suffering.