Don’t give the gift of cruelty this Christmas
Considering the comments posted on previous articles on The Punch, it’s safe to say that the issue of animal experimentation for medical research is a controversial topic, often generating strong views from largely polarised positions.
When it comes to the specific testing of cosmetics on animals however, clearly the jury is in. The vast majority of us consider it cruel and unnecessary to subject animals to painful tests merely for the sake of our own vanity.
In fact, in late 2008 Humane Research Australia commissioned a public opinion poll to gauge the public’s understanding and view of animal experimentation. As expected, 87 per cent of respondents were opposed to the use of animals in testing cosmetics.
In order to test the irritability, toxicity, carcinogenicity and teratogenicity (the ability to cause human birth defects) of non-essential products like a new lipstick, shampoo or even toilet cleaner (admittedly not a cosmetic), animals are subjected to very cruel and painful tests.
These can include the compound being tested by applying it to abrased skin, the eyes, and of course administrating the compound orally and/or intravenously.
Aside from the obvious pain caused to the animal by these procedures, stress is also caused from handling, restraint and other routine laboratory procedures, and yet, intricate differences in the absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) of chemicals between different species make animals inappropriate models to predict human outcomes.
What makes the issue even more unjust is that alternatives to these tests already exist and have proven to be more predictive.
You could be forgiven for thinking that such testing no longer occurs in this day and age. Companies might claim that their products are not tested on animals. That’s not to say however that the ingredients themselves have not been tested.
Similarly some companies which were genuinely ‘cruelty free’ have reverted to testing on animals in order to satisfy legislation in emerging markets such as China.
In reality, testing cosmetics on animals rarely occurs in Australia. While it is not explicitly banned in all states, it would not accord with the justification requirements of the Code of Practice for the care and use of animals in scientific procedures, and thus would be illegal.
The problem is that the vast majority of products lining our supermarket shelves are from overseas countries which do test on animals. Many Australians are therefore supporting this unnecessary cruelty inadvertently.
In order to address this on a global level, several organisations both in Australia and overseas are banding together to not only raise awareness of this travesty, but to lobby governments seeking change.
In 2013 Europe will introduce a ban on selling newly animal-tested cosmetics, for the first time ethically excluding products that don’t comply. For some beauty companies, commercial ambitions in Europe - the world’s largest cosmetics market - may be a compelling driver to revolutionise their approach.
The current review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme provides an ideal opportunity for Australia to address this very important issue.
Under section 81 (1) of the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) (“the Act”), the Minister for Health and Ageing has the power to determine standards for cosmetics imported into, or manufactured in Australia. Our Federal Government must introduce a standard under section 81 of the Act stating that no cosmetic shall be imported into, or manufactured in Australia if the final product or its ingredients has been tested on animals.
Such an inclusion in the Act will ensure that Australia is taking a leading role in the international efforts to ensure more humane and scientifically-valid testing methodologies for cosmetic testing.
Until such a ban is imposed, Australian consumers need to be mindful that their well-meaning gifts of cosmetics and perfumes this Christmas may well be financially supporting cruel and unnecessary animal experiments.
Purchasing from companies accredited by, and appearing on the Choose Cruelty Free List will ensure that your Christmas purchases are genuinely free from animal testing.
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