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The EU has banned cosmetics testing on animals: can we do the same in Australia?

In 2009, the EU brought into effect a ban on the use of animals to test both the final product and the ingredients of cosmetic formulations. In 2013, a ban was also introduced on the import or sale of cosmetics that have been newly tested on animals, meaning that EU companies now cannot test their cosmetic ingredients or products overseas. As a result, all the cosmetic products sold in the EU use ingredients that have been well established to be safe for use on humans and so do not require new testing for new ingredients or the end product, therefore preventing animals from being subjected to further testing for new cosmetic products.

The EU ban was made possible because of the support of the European Parliament and Council in ending animal testing even though alternative methods are not yet available for all required tests. The ban means that cosmetic manufacturers must rely on existing data and ingredients until alternative tests had been developed and validated. It does not have any impact on human health and safety as the same requirements for safety assessment of new ingredients remain in place.

The EU ban has the following five key elements which should be included in any similar ban in Australia:

  1. Animal testing of finished cosmetic products is prohibited (in place since 2004).
  2. Animal testing of cosmetic ingredients is prohibited (in place since March 2009).
  3. Marketing of cosmetic products and their ingredients which have been tested on animals is prohibited. This prohibition has been in place since March 2009 for all tests other than repeated-dose systemic toxicity, skin sensitisation, carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity and toxicokinetics, which have been prohibited since March 2013.
  4. Data from animal testing that has been carried out before the respective implementation dates of the marketing ban (11 March 2009/11 March 2013) can continue to be used in the safety assessment of cosmetic products.
  5. The testing and marketing bans apply regardless of whether alternative methods to animal testing are available.

The EU ban provides an excellent model for the development and implementation of a similar testing and marketing ban in Australia. Many of the issues that would arise from the introduction of an Australian ban have already been comprehensively examined during the EU process and there is a considerable body of information available to assist Australian regulatory agencies in implementing a ban. In addition, the global nature of the cosmetics industry means that the majority of cosmetics manufacturers are already working within the EU framework and will have put in place product development strategies to accommodate the EU ban.

It is encouraging that this issue is at last 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.

If you would like to learn more about the ban on animal testing for cosmetics in the EU you can read about it here: https://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/cosmetics/animal-testing_en

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.

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Updated on May 1, 2019
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