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Guide to Cruelty-Free Cosmetics: The History of Animal Testing

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Over the next few weeks I’m going to be doing a lot of posts on animal testing and why going cruelty free is the way everyone should go in a mini series I’m titling “Guide to Cruelty-Free Cosmetics.” And why there should be an overall ban on animal testing. So, let’s begin with the history of animal testing, and why it’s a relic of the past that needs to be ended as there are so many easier and cheaper ways to test products that don’t involve animals.

Animal testing has been in practice in the United States since the early 1920s, and in 1938 the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was passed that mandated animal testing to be conducted on any new drug. After a poisonous drug caused over 100 deaths known as Elixir Sulfanoamide. And this act didn’t just effect drugs, but anything from cosmetics to household cleaning products to food additives and pesticides. While this act is still in effect, it doesn’t require animal tests to be conducted to prove cosmetics are safe. These days it only prohibits the sale of mislabeled and adulterated cosmetics, but there are other countries who still mandate animal testing to be done on cosmetics products. That being China who require any imported products or products on their store shelves to be tested on animals. In 2013, the European Union banned animal testing shortly followed by Indra, Israel, Norway, and Switzerland. Where any imported product there must be free of animal testing in order to be sold there. The United States has not outright banned animal testing though some states have passed laws to limit cosmetic animal testing.

While when the act was first put in place it made since for the technology available at that time, things have changed majorly in the field of health research. In 1938, they didn’t have any other way to test if ingredients were safe for consumers. But the technology exists now that make the old way of animal testing obsolete. Technology is awesome and allows us to use in-vitro testing, computer models or even to replicate real human organs on microchips. Let’s spare the millions of animals and use this new technology. So, it’s time to move forward to use the alternative methods.

For cosmetics tests, the animals that are often used and died from the experiments include bunnies, guinea pigs, mice, and rats. Which is why most cruelty free certificates have a bunny in their logo. Dogs on the other hand are often used in medical research, cats are used in neurological studies, and non-human primates are used for a variety of other experiments. Since 2013, 67,772 dogs and 24,221 cats were used in research in the United States alone. And over 70,000 non-human primates are test subjects every year in the United States and European Union. Yes, while they banned animal testing for cosmetics, animals are still being used for medical research.

Also, that’s not to say animal testing isn’t flawed beyond just the moral reasons. A lot of times testing on animals doesn’t tell you how something is going to react on or in the human body. The animals have different genetics than we do, and while they are similar it isn’t exact. In the 1950s, the FDA cleared a drug called Thalidomide to combat morning sickness. They had tested the drug first on rats and found no ill effects, but when pregnant women took the drug horrible side effects happened. They had higher risk of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) and major birth defects like missing or extra limbs and other organ defects. But doctors didn’t put the two things together, and the drug was used in over forty-six countries and resulted in 10,000 babies with birth defects. And it wasn’t until 1962 that the drug got banned and they realized testing on rats didn’t work as they are able to handle the drug differently to humans. And that’s just one example, there are many cases where animal testing did nothing more than harm an idiot creature.

And you might be thinking, “Well that’s animal abuse there are laws against that.”  And you are slightly right, there are laws to prevent animal abuse, but they don’t apply to laboratory animals. Scientists are practically allowed to do anything to them for the sake of science. Sure, there is an ethics code, but it doesn’t really apply to animals. So, there are countless animals suffering when they don’t have to be.

In the cosmetics industry there are over 7,000 ingredients already deemed safe for companies to formulate their products with. As they were already tested when the laws initially went in effect. And while the cosmetics industry is evolving, and new ingredients are being discovered and used in beauty products. As I already mentioned there are alternative methods to testing them that don’t involve animals. Animal testing has a long and dark history, but it should be just that. History. A thing of the past that we don’t have to use anymore. It’s cruel, barbaric, and ineffective.

In the next post in this series, we’ll discuss what it takes for a brand to be cruelty-free and how to determine if a brand is cruelty free. In the meantime, feel free to check out my guide. And do research for yourself on this topic, it will make your blood boil or at least it does to mine.

Love ya,

Mae Polzine

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