Neatly stacked and illuminated by store lights, cosmetics look innocuous and indulgent – a kaleidoscope of shimmering, bold and pastel shades. But behind many make-ups and body products is a horrible reality most would rather ignore because it’s too upsetting to think about. There is a widespread belief that animal testing is a thing of the past and it’s difficult to contest this since most countries – including South Africa – don’t keep a record of such experiments. But researchers say that the incidence of animal experimentation is higher than ever before – and rising.*
Here in the Rainbow Nation, legislation limiting the scope of animal testing has been consistently deferred since 1962 and the national ‘code’ that does exist is dependent on voluntary cooperation and is not legally binding. As in most parts of the world, animals are not classified as sentient beings; instead they are regarded as objects – a status which leaves them vulnerable to excruciating laboratory tests and questionable farming practices.
Consumer consciousness is on the rise and more people are insisting on ethical beauty products today than ever before, but factors such as cost and convenience still steer consumers towards big-name brands that are sometimes less than scrupulous with regard to their testing standards. Some stores simply don’t stock cruelty-free beauty products – or only stock those in price brackets beyond reach of the vast majority. Yet the uncomfortable truth is that consumers who buy these products are – often unconsciously – perpetuating the practice of animal testing.
Exactly what constitutes an ethical beauty product is debatable, and only you can decide how strongly you feel about the issue and how far you are prepared to go in seeking out these products. Brands fall into three major categories with regard to testing methods: the first do not test their products on animals, use no ingredients that have been tested on animals and are not owned by parent companies that use animal testing; the second don’t test their own products on animals but are owned by parent companies who do, and the third do not test on animals but use ingredients that have been tested on animals.
There are thousands of cosmetic chemicals with an already proven safety record, yet cosmetics companies and pharmaceutical firms are constantly on the hunt for the latest ingredient that will distinguish them from their competitors. These ‘revolutionary’ chemicals require stringent testing to prove their safety for use in cosmetics, much of which is done on animals.
Animal rights activists and some medical researchers argue that the genetic dissimilarity of humans to the animals used in testing renders the process unreliable at best. ‘There are so many non-animal alternatives that are far more conclusive,’ says Toni Brockhoven of Beauty Without Cruelty South Africa. ‘Pouring the concentrated version of a substance into the eye of a rabbit, which is entirely different to a human eye and does not even have tear ducts to flush the substance out, is not only inhumane and immoral, but it doesn’t prove much anyway. And to do such things for thicker eyelashes or pinker cheeks – does our beauty know no bounds?’
*Source: A CRITICAL LOOK AT ANIMAL EXPERIMENTS
by Murry J. Cohen, M.D., Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D., Rhoda Ruttenberg, M.D. and Alix Fano, M.A.
July 2009 : Britian (and the world in general) are using more animals than ever before and this spike in animal experimentation coincides with the 50th anniversary of the original proposals to find alternatives.