UK government bans animal testing licences for cosmetics - activists say it’s not enough

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

UK government bans animal testing licences for cosmetics - activists say it’s not enough

Related tags Animal testing

After ongoing speculation about changes to animal testing rules in the UK, the government has banned the issuing of licences for animal testing for chemicals that are used as ingredients in cosmetics, but animal rights advocates say this action still doesn’t go far enough.

The UK government has ruled that licences can no longer be issued for animal testing for chemicals that are used as ingredients in cosmetic products.

The move comes after a High Court ruling earlier this month revealed that the UK government had changed its policy on animal testing in recent years, to allow animal testing for makeup ingredients to recommence despite being banned in 1998.

The government claimed it had changed its policy to match new EU rules from the chemical regulation agency European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). These rules stated that companies needed to test some ingredients that are used in cosmetics on animals to ensure they were safe for the workers who were manufacturing the ingredients.

It emerged that the UK government had been issuing licences for animal testing of cosmetic ingredients in line with these EU chemical rules, which it had retained despite the UK leaving the EU in 2020.

Immediate ban; no new licences granted

In an official statement made on 17 May 2023, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said there would be a licensing ban with immediate effect and that no new licences will be granted for this purpose.

Following Braverman’s statement, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Animal testing of cosmetic products for consumer safety has been banned since 1998. That remains in force…Building on this, we are going even further by banning licenses to test ingredients exclusively used in the production of cosmetics for worker safety, which is permitted under EU regulations. This ban is in force with immediate effect.”

The Home Office spokesperson also said the government is “undertaking work to review at pace the effective administration over the longer term (including the legal framework for this). This would also have due regard to the needs of the science industry, the need to ensure worker and environmental safety, and the need to protect animals from unnecessary harm”.

Amounts to only 20% of chemicals used in cosmetics

However, animal protection NGO Cruelty Free International has responded to the Home Secretary’s statement by saying although it is a move in the right direction, it’s still not an adequate response.

It said: “This statement is a welcome first step in response to the information revealed in our Judicial Review earlier this month. We are pleased to see that the Government is listening to the British public in reinstating a partial ban on animal testing for ingredients used exclusively in cosmetics, to protect consumer, worker and environmental safety, and actively seeking alternatives to animal testing.”

However, the NGO asserts that the UK government still isn’t taking enough action. It says: “Ingredients used ‘exclusively’ in cosmetics amount to only about 20% of the total number of chemicals used in cosmetics​.”

It claims that the previous ban on animal testing for cosmetics, which was confirmed by the government in 2015, also covered ‘substances used exclusively or predominantly as cosmetic product ingredients’.

It now urges the UK government to reinstate the full ban on animal testing for cosmetics.

Pioneering and using non-animal methods​ 

On behalf of the cosmetics industry, the Cosmetics Toiletries & Perfumery Association (CTPA) says the cosmetics industry in general doesn’t want any animal testing for chemicals used in cosmetics products.

Dr Emma Meredith, Director General of CTPA said: “I welcome this government action, which builds on the world-leading animal testing bans that have been in place in the UK for decades.” 

Meredith also said that the cosmetics industry has been “pioneering and using non-animal methods to ensure chemical safety and will continue to do so as a sector.” 

Meanwhile, the British Beauty Council said it would “continue to work towards eliminating animal testing from UK beauty as something that is of utmost importance to consumers and the industry​.”


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