More than 80% of the world still allows animals to be used in the testing of cosmetics and consumer products, according to Cruelty Free International, a global organization working to end animal testing.
The cruelty-free movement aims to end that practice altogether. And there’s already progress — many companies have adopted a cruelty-free policy.
In fact, more than 1,700 companies throughout the world now offer cruelty-free products and refuse to harm animals, according to PETA.
“We’ve made huge progress on ending cosmetics tests on animals in the U.S., and it is now illegal in the EU, India and Israel,” says Amanda Nordstrom, company liaison for PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program.
But there’s still a long road ahead.
“Hundreds of thousands of animals every year in other countries are still being poisoned and killed in outdated tests on everything from deodorant to window cleaner,” notes Nordstrom.
The U.S. also has yet to pass the Humane Cosmetics Act (HCA) in Congress, which would end the use of animals in cosmetics and personal care product testing.
Fortunately, as consumers, we all have the power to help put an end to tests on animals. Purchasing only cruelty-free products is an opportunity to vote with dollars, notes Nordstrom.
Here are three reasons to join the cruelty-free movement.
Reason 1: Animal testing is harmful
One of the biggest arguments that advocates cite for joining the cruelty free movement is the harm it causes animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and rats.
“These animals spend their lives in small cages, live in constant fear and suffer through painful experiments without anesthesia,” says Nordstrom.
In some tests, animals are forced to swallow or inhale large quantities of test substances to determine toxicity. In other cases, chemicals are applied to animals’ skin and eyes in order to test irritation and corrosion, according to PETA.
“These animal tests are typically done at maximum tolerated doses, which means that animals can suffer considerably,” says Thomas Hartung, professor and director of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
One test is particularly notorious for the harm it does – the Draize eye test.
“Despite the availability of more modern, humane, and effective alternatives, rabbits are still tormented in the notorious Draize eye irritancy test,” says Theodora Capaldo, EdD, president for the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, or NEAVS.
This test involves dropping concentrated amounts of a test substance into a (restrained and un-anaesthetized) rabbit’s eye and assessing the level of eye damage and injury, she says. As a result, animals experience swelling, redness, ulcerations, bleeding and even blindness, she adds.
Yet it’s not just the animals that suffer. Because of the potentially inaccurate results animal tests may produce, our health as humans may suffer as well.
“Animals are not ‘little humans’ and respond to substances in ways that may or may not predict human response. At best, they give us ‘guess work’ information,” says Capaldo.
Reason 2: There are better alternatives to animal testing
Because of modern technological advances, there’s an abundance of better alternatives to animal testing already available, says Capaldo.
In fact, about 50 alternative tests have been internationally validated, meaning they are shown to be reliable and uphold safety standards, notes Hartung.
Alternative methods not only eliminate animal testing, they are more accurate, take less time to complete, usually cost only a fraction of what animal tests cost and are not affected by species differences, notes Nordstrom.
Animal testing is simply obsolete.
“We can now use human cells and tissues, computer models and countless cutting edge scientific techniques that weren’t available when cosmetics tests on animals started,” says Nordstrom.
Of course, toxicity testing, in general, is necessary. We live with about 100,000 chemicals in our daily life products, says Hartung. And there’s some concern about their contribution to diseases, such as autism and effects on the endocrine system, he adds.
Testing products before they’re out on the market can help improve public health, he notes.
But with modern technology, that testing doesn’t have to be done on animals.
Reason 3: There are plenty of cruelty-free products available
Cruelty-free products are now widely available and accessible, making it easier to choose cruelty-free.
Plus, those products may be better for you and for the environment.
“Cruelty-free products are more environmentally friendly, less likely to contain harmful chemicals, and more likely to use natural substances,” says Capaldo.
One of the easiest ways to make sure you’re buying cruelty-free is to look for a company that has been certified by the Leaping Bunny program, a program by The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics. It administers a cruelty-free standard internationally.
“Today, there are more than 500 Leaping Bunny-certified, cruelty-free brands, most of which are available in regular stores as well as online marketplaces like Vitacost,” says Capaldo.
How you can help
If you want to help the cause, you can get started by purchasing only products certified as cruelty-free.
And don’t be afraid to let companies that perform animal testing know why you won’t buy their products. Nordstrom says that many companies have consumer information phone lines or email addresses that make the process straightforward.
Finally, ask your representative(s) to co-sponsor and support the Humane Cosmetics Act, notes Capaldo. Banning animal testing in the U.S. is one step closer to a world free of animal cruelty.