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Since most advances in medicine and veterinary health involve some animal research, it is virtually impossible to access medical or veterinary care and avoid using any products that have been developed using animals. But much of the safety testing that involves animals is for non-medical products. There are choices that companies can make which will reduce or eliminate the need for animal testing. Only new ingredients in products require testing. If companies stick to old formulations, or to combinations of chemicals that have previously been safety tested, then no further testing is required. Unfortunately, consumers tend to encourage the development and marketing of new products, which in turn results in more animal testing.
Those companies which advertise that they do not carry out animal testing will generally have a policy that they only use ingredients that have already been tested (by other companies). Some of these companies will have a 'fixed cut-off date', say 1990, and they will only use ingredients that were tested before this date. Others will have a 'rolling date' where they will only use ingredients that have not been tested in the past 5 or 10 years. Other companies may state that they do not test their 'products' on animals, but in many cases they test the ingredients, or they pay an external company to do the testing for them.
There is no simple solution to avoiding animal testing. There are things that you can do to help reduce the amount of testing carried out, such as avoiding buying 'new improved' formulations and checking labels to see if a company makes claims about animal testing and asking what these claims mean. There are three important criteria for an effective ‘cruelty free’ testing policy:
In the case of cosmetics, the Australian industry is competitive and responsive to customers and there is plenty of choice in the market for consumers that wish to use products that are cruelty-free, so buying products ethically can influence a change in the choices companies will make in relation to their products. If you’re interested in purchasing cruelty-free cosmetic products in Australia, then the Choose Cruelty Free website provides information on available products.
It is also encouraging that this issue is receiving attention at the federal political level with two similar Bills being introduced in the past year - the Greens introduced the End Cruel Cosmetics Bill 2014 and the Australian Labour Party introduced the Ethical Cosmetics Bill 2016. Both aim to prohibit the sale, and the importation from other countries, of cosmetics that have been newly tested on animals. Effective political lobbying by the community will hopefully see new laws implemented in the near future.
RSPCA Australia is campaigning in partnership with the UK RSPCA to encourage global cosmetics companies to adopt these policies. If you would like to join the campaign and help end the use of animal testing of cosmetics globally, please take action through RSPCA Australia's Makeover the World campaign.