Animal welfare organisations call on the European Commission to uphold the ban on animal testing for Cosmetics

As today marks the eighth anniversary of the EU cosmetics animal testing ban, animal protection organisations have joined forces to urge the EU to call off new cosmetics tests on animals in an open letter.

The EU Cosmetics Regulation (EC No 1223/2009) put an end to the sale of cosmetic products containing ingredients which have been tested on animals—a celebrated achievement for animal welfare that inspired many initiatives worldwide. However, the scope of the ban is being significantly threatened by several decisions of the European Chemical Agency (ECHA), confirmed by its Board of appeal, which reintroduce unnecessary animal experimentation on ingredients exclusively used in cosmetics.

Animal protection organisations urge the EU to stop new cosmetics tests on animals in an open letter addressed to the President of the European Commission (EC) on 26 February.

463 cosmetics companies together with a coalition of animal welfare organisations addressed a first letter to President Ursula von der Leyen on 2nd December 2020 to raise this issue. Recalling that knowledge and data accumulated over the past decades are sound enough to safeguard workers ‘health, the signatories ensured that no animal testing is required on ingredients which have been safely handled by workers in factories for many years.

NGOs are therefore calling for the immediate suspension of animal test requirements related to ingredients used exclusively in cosmetics while urging the EU to uphold the testing ban as intended in the Cosmetics Regulation.

The entry into force of the ban has set an example to the world, highlighting the commitment of the Industry to embrace change. It has demonstrated that cosmetics testing on animals can and should be phased out. As a result of ECHA’s appeal decisions, thousands of animals, mainly rats and rabbits, will endure unnecessary suffering and killing, and this despite the availability of animal-free solutions - or New Approaches Methodologies (NAMs) – and the continuous advancements of research.

According to the Commission on 6 January, out of the 150 substances used exclusively for cosmetics that are currently registered under REACH, “there have been very few cases where a test on vertebrate animals was required”.

NGOs are asking the provision of data regarding these 150 substances and the related in vivo tests which have been carried out since 2013.

A ruling of the European Court of Justice confirmed in 2018 that, under REACH, registrants of cosmetics must generate information using non-animal data whenever possible. ECHA should therefore accept non-animal data provided by registrants.

The Commission also states that Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes “already provides a strategy that is legally binding and a step-wise approach for replacing animals”. NGOs note however that Article 38.1(a) of the Directive allows animal testing to be carried out if tests are “required by law”, even if alternative approaches exist.

ECHA’s decisions do not only shred the Cosmetics Regulation ban by introducing a confusing exception but they also undermine the requirement to promote NAMs in the wider field of research and safety assessment of chemicals. Furthermore, the ban and the lives of many more animals are further threatened by the Commission’s future implementation of the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability that foresees the expansion of testing requirements for substances including cosmetics ingredients. For MEP Maria Spyraki, (EPP) "The Green Deal and the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability should ensure that unnecessary animal tests are avoided, incentivising the development of smart testing strategies and Artificial Intelligence methods."

MEP Tilly Metz (Greens), Chair of a parliamentary working group on Animals in Science, asserts that "the Parliament still stands firmly behind the initial ban on animal testing for cosmetics, and urges the European Commission to intensify, coordinate and speed up efforts to phase out animal testing in general, in order to reach the goal of total replacement by non-animal methods".

Despite the European Parliament’s call for a worldwide ban on testing cosmetics on animals by 2023 and several citizen’s initiatives, the ECHA’s decisions hinder the EU’s own objectives towards ensuring the safe use of cosmetics without new animal testing. As the USA will stop requesting and funding mammal studies by 2035, the EU must pursue its efforts to support the modernisation of scientific methods to satisfy the citizen’s wishes for cruelty-free products.

The signatories of the letter are Cruelty Free Europe, Eurogroup for Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals PETA, European Coalition to End Animal Experiments ECEAE, and Human Society International Europe.

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Jeanne Laperrouze

Jeanne Laperrouze

Jeanne Laperrouze studied political science at Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Toulouse and Digital Law at the International, European and Comparative Law Institute (IRDEIC at Toulouse 1 Université Capitole in France.

After serving at the ENVI, ITRE and CULT Committees of the European Parliament as a parliamentary attaché, she opened a consultancy company providing advice and support to NGOs and enterprises. She participated in studies and organised events European policies in the fields of digital economy and society, health, the protection of the environment and human rights protection.

She joined Altertox in 2021, a Belgium SME dedicated to promoting alternatives to animal testing in toxicology to protect human health, animals and the environment.

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