Last week, Dove and The Body Shop unveiled a European Citizens’ Initiative in partnership with Humane Society International (HSI); People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); Cruelty Free Europe; Eurogroup for Animals; and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE). The Initiative, entitled ‘Save cruelty free cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without animal testing’ called on the European Commission to protect and strengthen the cosmetics animal testing ban; transform the EU chemicals regulation; and modernise science in the EU.
Executives from Dove and The Body Shop said this big-brand collaboration brought important scale and size to the push to protect the EU animal testing ban for cosmetics and Chris Davis, global director of sustainability, activism and corporate communications at Unilever, said the brands were looking forward to “other brands joining”. “…The potential impact of this issue is huge, and it needs huge response,” Davis said.
‘There are issues that need to be discussed, debated and solutions found’
John Chave, director-general of trade association Cosmetics Europe, said its members welcomed the campaign as it spotlighted important issues and started a public debate.
“Everybody in our industry is supportive of the [animal testing] ban. Everybody totally supports the need to both continue developing alternatives and get them adopted and recognised by authorities,” Chave told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.
And whilst concerns raised around the interface between the Cosmetics Regulation and REACH regarding animal testing were not new, he said it was “back on the agenda” for two key reasons. Firstly, the ongoing legal action in connection with ECHA’s ruling on required animal testing data, led by Symrise, had created more industry engagement. And secondly, the European Green Deal had given rise to a “widely held view” that increased levels of animal testing may be required under the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, notably for environmental endpoints, he said.
EU animal testing ban
While animals, largely mice, remain extensively used for medical research and testing, the European Union implemented a ban on all animal testing for cosmetic products and cosmetics ingredients under its Cosmetics Regulation 1223/2009 in 2013. The move followed an initial ban on testing for finished products in 2004 and ingredients in 2009.
However, under the European Chemicals Agency ECHA’s REACH Regulation 1907/2006, certain aspects require or enable animal testing – notably testing for environmental endpoints like aquatic toxicity, testing for long-term worker safety, the pre-registration of some new chemical substances and registering of chemicals used in non-cosmetic products.
“That’s clearly why it’s come back on the European agenda. There are issues that need to be discussed, debated and solutions found,” Chave said.
“…The EU, since the adoption of the ban in 2013, has invested in alternatives and supported alternatives programmes, but the concern would be that there is not yet the level of full understanding of the reality and potential of alternatives to shift the needle on these kinds of decisions.”
A future where animal testing alternatives are ‘properly understood’
Chave said the cosmetics industry had been working on safety testing alternatives for decades; the issue now was getting these alternatives fully understood across all of industry, as well as recognised and accepted by regulatory bodies – all of which took time because it involved a “change of mindset”. But this was exactly what the association’s New Science Programme, set to launch next year, aimed to tackle.
“Part of our new programme will be education and capacity building,” he said. “…The overriding concern for us is that we move towards alternatives to animal testing.”
“…Clear progress is being made and we need to make sure that what progress there is, is reflected in European decisions and that EU policy makers make their own contribution to pushing progress.”
Every stakeholder, including policy makers, should be involved in the dialogue around animal testing alternatives, he said, and the European Citizens’ Initiative was one good means of drawing attention to that. “The fact that the campaign has been launched at least allows us to be talking about the key issues in a very public way,” he said.
Beyond publicly backing the European Citizens’ Initiative, Chave said Cosmetics Europe would continue its close engagement with European policy makers – speaking to MEPs and the European Parliament regularly to bring forward industry views and promote a “scientifically appropriate dialogue to solve the problems that are clearly there”.
“…Now is the time. It’s right to enter some sort of dialogue or create a platform with EU policy makers, including the Commission and ECHA, so we can make sure we have a proper community of understanding around the reality and potential of alternatives,” Chave said.