How do you feel about animal testing? Have you ever heard of it? Let’s begin with a fact: I have always been a bit of a makeup snob. When I first dipped my toe into this colourful world, I would have turned my nose up quite quickly at lower-priced drugstore brands. My personal goal was to own the entirety of Bourjois Paris makeup. My reasoning was very simple; it was French, it was chic and most importantly, they make Chanel makeup and because I couldn’t afford luxury lipstick on a pocket money budget, I settled on second best. But several hundred pounds worth of products later, I have moved on. I voyaged out further from just Bourjois Paris. I went to Kiko Milano, Rimmel London and even ventured across the water to Maybelline New York. Though, many others are still very selective when it comes to shopping for cosmetics.
Cruelty-free products are becoming more about a choice rather than a suitable option for the vegan/vegetarians lifestyle. Thankfully. These types of products are making a steady advance to greater mainstream audiences due to an increased awareness of animal welfare issues. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) conducted a public opinion survey in order to gain an insight into people’s opinions about animal welfare.
As the graphs show, many believe that testing cosmetics and personal care products on animals are unethical, and a large majority believe such testing should not be allowed. This definitely reflects that there is an interest in the idea of animal welfare as 58% stated that they are likely to purchase products that were cruelty-free. Whilst this study was conducted in America, I feel like this really can reflect on a much larger population interest- the idea of anyone seeking animal welfare rights can be universal regardless of location and to back this notion up, on the 11th of March 2011, the European Union banned animal testing to both cosmetics products and their ingredients in Europe. Fantastic!
Let’s get down to basics; what is animal testing and why does it exist? It exists due to ensure consumer safety at the cost of animal welfare when a product is made, it is hauled through multiple tests in order for it to be deemed safe. It is tested for skin sensitization, skin or eye irritation as well as less immediate effects like reproductive development and inhalation toxicity.
Here’s an example for you: when a product is being tested for skin irritation, animal testing labs will apply the test substance to the exposed skin of a shaved rabbit. They then leave it for a period of time and “record if their skin shows any signs of redness, rash, lesions, scaling, inflammation, and/or other signs of damage” according to The Humane Society, a non-profit organisation that reviews animal safety. This test is usually done on numerous rabbits at once over a period of time to make results more valid. Should beauty be forcibly made skin deep for these animals? And yet, there is a simple alternative that exists. Cruelty-free organisations use “reconstructed human skin models”. These are grown in a laboratory from skin cells left and are the replacement to live test subjects. They highlight the potential dangers caused by a new product and are more accurate at predicting how human skin will respond to an ingredient or product.
And that isn’t the only benefit from using reasons cruelty-free products. Many everyday household brands are full of harsh chemicals, such as parabens and fragrance. For instance, aluminium is an ingredient found in antiperspirants that may be linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Cruelty-free products provide a gentler, more natural substitute for our skin to absorb.
On doing a quick google search of ‘Cruelty-Free makeup’ for my research, I was hit with a vast number of articles-most about which brands are listed as cruelty-free. But that made me think;
- Why do you have to check these lists in order to be informed?
- Why do so few of these companies actually make that clear?
- Shouldn’t companies be proud to be recognised as a cruelty-free brand?
Companies such as TooFaced Cosmetics, Wet & Wild Beauty and NYX Cosmetics are proud to show their support towards the protection of animals as they print the Cruelty-Free bunny logo onto all their packaging.
Personally, a brand should not be approved as a cruelty-free brand unless they are willing to display it on their product’s packaging. For a lot of brands, it seems to be that you have to do the research yourself to find out information about their animal testing policy. I find this to be true with a lot of brands because nowhere on their packaging, mentions “cruelty free” or even has the cruelty free bunny printed on it. Which is ironic because most brands have been certified by both PETA and The Leaping Bunny Program. To name and shame a few guilty brands: Hourglass Cosmetics, Urban Decay, Charlotte Tilbury, ELF Cosmetics. I think this is an awful shame because I own products from each of these brands and would deem it an attractive trait for the brand to demonstrate its beliefs to oppose animal testing.
When looking at this issue from a PR perceptive, these companies are losing out in my opinion. Customers dictate the market. If consumers are buying into the concept of supporting animal welfare and begin to shop with a more to ethical mindset then brands with outdated packaging and philosophies will crumble. By tapping into this idea of identifying as a cruelty-free brand, I feel animal caring customers would want to engage more. By understanding that the consumer is now actively choosing cruelty-free over animal tested products, it should set alarm bells ringing for organisations to change their ways. Now I am not expecting the CEO of these companies to become extreme animal activists but I feel owning up to the title of an animal right supporter should be enough for customers to feel more informed and connect to the brand as they share the same beliefs. This can be as easy done as printing it on packaging or training staff on the company’s ethics.
Personally, I believe the more attention we give to cruelty-free brands, the quicker more legislation is brought in in order to protect all animals. China is a perfect example. With little to no regulations set in place about animal testing, there is no framework to ensure Asian companies will uphold these documentations. Therefore, companies don’t need to make an effort to ensure animal welfare is safeguarded which leads to a higher potential for abuse. And so, hundreds of thousands, probably even more-rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, and rats are still subjected to painful tests each year to bring the likes of eyeshadow, shampoo and body lotion to store shelves.
If we can do our best to avoid cruelty-free brands through research and selective purchases, knowing which brands we stand by or boycott- then maybe the directors at these companies will get the message that all lives- from men to mice- are equal and deserve to be treated with respect. I hope that further awareness and rapid change to how testing is currently performed will change for the better- animal abuse is an ugly affair, so why should they be harmed in order for us to feel pretty.
Nicole Service is a third-year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicole-service-056016130.