UK Quietly Does 180 on Animal Testing of Makeup

Government apparently reversed its stance in 2019, after decades-long ban
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2023 10:15 AM CDT
Animal Testing of Makeup Revived Decades After UK Ban
Rabbits sit in a laboratory cage.   (Getty Images/anilbolukbas)

The UK government had banned the testing of makeup ingredients on animals for more than two decades when it quietly reversed its stance in 2019. It began issuing licenses for animal testing of cosmetic ingredients in line with European Union rules, which don't allow animal testing to determine whether makeup is safe for consumers, but require that manufacturers use such tests as a last resort to ensure the safety of workers during production, per the BBC and Guardian. It continued to do so after leaving the EU in 2020. It was entirely legal, High Court Judge Thomas Linden ruled Friday following legal action by Cruelty Free International (CFI), though he noted it was "regrettable" that the public hadn't been told of the policy change. Legal the move may be, but uncontroversial it is not.

More than 80 brands, including Unilever, TRESemme UK, and the Body Shop, say they're "dismayed" by the position. "We want the UK to uphold its 1998 position as intended, with no new tests on animals allowed," reads a letter signed by the brands. It notes that "the UK was the first country in the world to say no to animal testing for cosmetics and their ingredients," which led to "innovation in non-animal safety science and assessment approaches." The industry now has a "'toolbox' of non-animal methodologies with which to assess product safety," yet the European Chemicals Agency is "requiring some widely used cosmetics ingredients (and ingredients used in many other types of consumer products) to be tested on hundreds of thousands of animals."

PETA UK claims rabbits, rats, and other animals are forced to "ingest shampoo or sun cream ingredients for months at a time," per Glamour. Dr. Julia Fentem, head of Unilever's Safety & Environmental Assurance Center, says it's not necessary to use animals in the safety tests. CFI CEO Michelle Thew argues the government "was prioritizing the interests of contract-testing companies over those of animals and the wishes of the vast majority of British people," per the BBC. The organization plans to appeal the ruling. The UK Home Office says it's "pleased" with the decision but remains "committed to the protection of animals in science." Judge Linden noted, however, that there's nothing stopping the government from introducing a complete ban on animal testing of cosmetics. (More animal testing stories.)

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