Monday, January 31, 2011

Animal Testing: A Stance

In the United States, the FDA maintains a strict schedule of regulations that oversee the cosmetic industry, ensuring that its products are safe for human consumption. Although we are eased with the idea of consuming safe products, we make the false assumption, as we dap our lip-gloss brush back into its vial or add a dab of mascara to our dashing eyelashes, that what is considered safe is produced morally.

The legal premise for animal testing in the United States is murky to say the least.  Established principles regarding the use of animals in a laboratory environment are more closely regulated by the Animal Welfare Act (enacted August 24th, 1966) which lays out a set of standards deemed necessary for animal experimentation and welfare.  Although the act highlights the “minimization of animal discomfort” and stresses the “proper care” (including ventilation, hydration and sanitation) of animals, in many ways it scribbles a vague and ineffective mural of governance. 

In Europe, the European Commission, with strong support from animal advocacy groups, was set to ban all sales of animal tested cosmetics within the EU.  This ban however, was stymied by government bureaucracy and inaction to a statement issued by the European cosmetics association stating:

"top scientists confirm that although phenomenal progress has been made, a full set of alternative tests to cover all areas of consumer safety will almost certainly not be available by 2013"

Yet proponents of the ban claim that the cosmetic industry is deliberately delaying the enactment of the law so as to benefit from the reduced cost of animal testing. The European commission pledged it would release a report on the progress of alternative testing methods in early 2011.

Chemical safety and regulation is currently overseen by EU regulation REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals), which estimates that a minimum of 8 million additional animals will be fated to take part in these tests but there are figures that put the number as high as 54 million.

Aside from the obvious forced nature of these tests, the physical implications are left standing. 

Rabbits, for example, are widely used in the Draize eye-and-skin irritation tests.  These tests are conducted in a laboratory environment with no anesthesia given to the animal, which is immobilized by full body restraints, fully aware of its environment.  One must also give credence to the instinctual nature of animals, which causes them to strain and in many cases rupture their spinal cord attempting to escape.  Chemical substances are dripped or smeared into the animal’s eyes or onto shaven skin.  Generally, statistics show that 50% of all animals die 2 to 3 weeks after these exams as a result of developing liver problems, swelling, ulcerations or bleeding caused by the chemicals, while nothing is done to maintain the welfare of these animals.

A more insidious case of testing is also known as the LD50 test for lethal dose, in which groups of animals are injected with varying amounts of chemicals to ascertain how large of a dose is sufficient to kill half of the stock.

The data that currently exists suggests that 94% of all animal testing is used for cosmetic purposes, this being said, only 6% of all other animal testing is used for medical research.

The cosmetic industry has long been under scrutiny from animal rights activists for utilizing animals such as rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, cats, dogs and primates to assess the damaging effects of their products.  The industry views these acts are justified by ensuring the safety of the consumer, however, statistics on animal testing claim otherwise: between 5-25% of the outcomes are likely to replicate when applied to consumers.

An issue that is bound to hit closer to home with many consumers is the use of dogs and cats in laboratory settings.  Dogs and cats that are used in animal research are usually labeled “unwanted” and taken out of animal shelters, where they face devastating alternatives, either being euthanized or used in agonizing research.

Statistics show that for every 50 dogs or cats euthanized in animal shelters, 1 is used for research.  This being taken into context, the amount of animals put to death in animal shelters in the United States is between 10.1 and 16.7 million annually, from these figures, can assume (from an average number of 13.4 million) that about 268,000 dogs and cats are used each year in animal research trials.

In the United States, Avon became the first major cosmetic producer to ban animal testing in its business structure, companies such as Boots, Yardley and Revlon followed suit.  Yet such claim are sometimes found to be misleading, as many companies did not test on animals themselves, but continued to be supplied with chemical ingredients that have recently been tested on animals.

Much of the misleading nature of these announcements is found in the semantics of the advertising– companies that generally boast of providing consumers with non-animal tested products do not make mention of the animal tested ingredients used in their product, in this case, the nature of the whole does not reflect the nature of the different parts that sum up to the whole.

Animal testing is a pronounced practice world wide, generally for the financial benefit of the cosmetic industry. Human self-exceptionalism plays a strong role in such trials, where the company sacrifices the life, dignity, and wellbeing of animals to avoid consumer liability and save on costs, its current position on the list of issues facing the world today is not nearly high enough to see an end to the issue within our generation.

By: Konstantin Ravvin
Check out his other writings:


  1. Well done for drawing attention to such an important issue.

  2. I agree - I just wanted to stop by and thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog :)