Did you know that 80% of countries around the world still have no ban against animal testing in cosmetics? If the answer's no, perhaps that’s because the European Union banned it back in 2013, so for us EU-dwellers the notion of it is as outdated as it is cruel. But unfortunately it’s still going on in places such as Russia, China, the USA, Australia and Brazil.
That’s why The Body Shop has teamed up with longtime allies Cruelty Free International to launch FAAT – Forever Against Animal Testing. “The aim of the campaign is to get a global ban on the testing of cosmetics on animals. Since the EU’s ban in 2013, we’ve seen a number of other countries – from India to New Zealand – take up the challenge, introducing their own legislation. We feel now is the time for a global ban,” Michelle Thew, CEO of Cruelty Free International explains. “In order to achieve that, we’re calling on the United Nations to implement an international convention to end testing once and for all. It’s a global call to citizens around the world.”
This isn’t new territory for the ethical beauty brand and leading organisation. Back in 1989, The Body Shop founder and tireless campaigner Anita Roddick fought back against a draft directive by the EU that would have made it compulsory for animal testing to be carried out by companies. “We really kicked, screamed, and shouted about that,” Jessie Macneil-Brown, Senior Manager International Campaigns and Corporate Responsibility at The Body Shop tells me. “The way we campaign is by using our stores and communications platforms to tell customers and the general public what we’re passionate about. I come from grassroots campaigning, and having 66 countries, 3,000 stores, 22,000 staff to get your message across is really powerful.”
Aiming to get 8 million signatures in order to bring the campaign to the UN’s front bench could be seen as ambitious, but it’s not the first time such a feat has been achieved. “In 2012 I led a campaign – our biggest to date – against human trafficking, and we secured 7 million signatures globally. When you get that many it really opens the door to politicians. The UN said it was the perfect model for campaigning: we had businesses paired with NGOs and we got over 20 governments to change their laws.”
There’s solid proof that consumers want ethical beauty – it was the number one concern for The Body Shop customers in a survey last year – so why, in 2017, hasn’t this been rectified yet? It seems that there is a disconnect between the customer and what goes on behind closed doors. “This is a hidden secret in the beauty industry, people just don’t realise it still happens. We’ve estimated that it could be half a million animals being killed – that’s 1,400 animals a day,” Michelle tells me. “This includes shaving the backs of animals to test skin reactions, exposing animals to very high chemical dosages to see how many will die, and there’s the notorious Draize eye irritancy test, which is tested on rabbits.”
What’s truly tragic is that there are proven cruelty-free ways to trial makeup and skincare. “The tragedy is that there are cheaper and more effective alternatives based on reconstituted human skin, or the latest computer technology – we’ve seen such positive advances, making us even more determined,” Michelle explains. Ethics aside, animal testing only predicts human reactions by 40-60%, while alternatives are accurate 80% of the time.
So what can you do to end animal testing in cosmetics? “Consumers can do two things – they can shop cruelty-free, and to do that they should buy products from companies that only have the leaping bunny symbol – the global accreditation symbol that means that products and ingredients are not tested. The second thing is to sign the petition, get active, and tell your government that this must come to an end. It’s crazy that we are still having to fight. We can’t afford to wait for the slowest country in the world to catch up – we need to put animal testing in cosmetics into the history books.”
As Jessie rightly says, “the 2013 ban hasn’t hindered the industry, and the world hasn’t caved in – in fact, the beauty industry has gone from strength to strength.” Surely we’ll want to be able to look back in years to come and know that in 2017 we ended such an outdated and cruel method – but the only way to do so is to back the campaign now.