The European Court of Justice has ruled against moves by the French government to resist a ban on the testing of cosmetics products on animals by the year 2009. The move will come as a blow to one of the country's biggest industries and will put the global industry on its toes, reports Simon Pitman.
Despite being slammed by the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice over its move, the French government had proceeded with its appeal to partially lift the ban, only to be told on Tuesday that it had lost its appeal.
In an official statement the European Court of Justice concluded "...that the partial the partial annulment sought was impossible and declared the action to be inadmissible."
The French government was lobbying for the deletion of Article 4 (1)(i) of the EU Cosmetics Directive 76/678, which would have allowed the marketing of animal-tested products to be unconditionally permitted throughout the European Community.
France has the biggest cosmetics industries in Europe, with names such as L'Oreal and Clarence and Clinique proffering some of the most successful and well-known brand names around the globe.
The French government has been claiming that the current Directive against animal testing violated the principle of legal certainty because its scope was not adequately defined.
However, the French government has already been rebuffed. Back in January it bought another similar case to the European Courts that was rejected two months later.
Although the European cosmetics industry has had a mixed reaction to the ban on testing by the year 2008, most are now resigned to the prospect and are actively seeking alternatives.
But the decision will not only impact European companies. The international cosmetics industry is likely to be affected by the ruling, with US companies in particular having to comply with the regulations that set a global precedence.
Currently in the US the testing of cosmetics products on animals continues to be legal, though many fear that recent moves in the EU could fuel agressive campaigning by animal rights lobby groups to end all animal testing.
Current estimates are that approximately 10.7 million animal experiments are carried out in the EU every year, with approximately 0.25 per of these being related to the cosmetics and personal care industry. In the US it is thought that between two and four million tests are carried out on animals for consumer products each year.
At the recent Colipa Annual General Meeting, held in Budapest last week, a presentation given by Beatrice Lucaroni, EU scientific officer, highlighted some of the problem areas the phasing out of animal testing would present for the industry.
Lucaroni said that one of the biggest potential bottlenecks would be finding new in vitro tests aimed at discovering the toxicity of new cosmetic and personal care formulations. However, she was positive that alternatives would be found, particularly in view of the fact that under the newly introduced Framework 7 programme, funding for such projects has now doubled.
Animal rights groups will be happy though. It is largely their unrelenting lobbying that has led to the ban on testing for the cosmetics ingredients. The fact that the EU has stepped up funding of programmes to come up with alternative to animal testing is also a testimony to the work they have put in.
The EC's decision not to uphold its ban on cosmetics testing coincides with the findings of a two-year study published by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which concludes that alternatives ways of conducting medical research should be found in an effort to spare animals being needlessly used in experiments.
A committee working for the organisation - which included scientists, philosophers, members of animal protection groups and lawyers - concluded that animal experiments were likely to continue in the future but that many practical advances to replace animals would be likely to further reduce such experimentation in the future.