Animal testing is legal in South Africa, and unregulated, which essentially means laboratories can do as they please. There are guidelines on how it should be done, but observance of this is completely voluntary. This is not only true for medical testing (where animal testing is a legal requirement for safety purposes), but also for cosmetic testing.
My arguments against testing on animals for cosmetics can be summarised as follows:
- Let’s start with the obvious – it is a cruel practice, and I believe the animals farmed for this practice suffer greatly. They are sentient, and undercover footage of testing disturbs me. I can see the animals are in pain, terrified and trying to escape. The volumes of animal bred and killed for this in SA are unknown because this information is not widely shared. However in 2012 it was estimated that 100 million animals around the world were used for testing (not only for cosmetics, but all animal testing). This number doesn’t account for the “surplus” of animals bred, who are not tested on, and therefore killed because they have no use and would cost money to keep alive.
- The results of these tests are only valid for the animal being tested on. Animals and people have different physiologies, and therefore while test results could be an approximation to their effects on human, they are 100% accurate. The Thalidomide tragedy is an extreme point case, which proves that if something is not harmful to animals the same does not go for humans. (This is also an argument used against medical testing on animals, which I won’t go into here, but if you’d like to read more on this, read this and this. You can also click here for an overview of the arguments given for and against animal testing, as it’s useful to hear both sides of the argument when forming an opinion on this.)
- From what I’ve read, animal testing focuses on lethal toxicity levels and short term effects. My concerns with most make-up ingredients are the effects they have – on humans, not mice or rabbits, etc – over prolonged periods of time. What are the results of absorbing certain chemicals through your skin over 20, 30 or more years? Does this contribute to, for example, various cancers? I don’t think the cosmetic industry effectively tests for this.
- Alternatives to animal testing are available, and are said to be less expensive and more accurate than animal testing.
- Surely we have tested enough ingredients, and found them to be safe (including in real life usage on people over the years), that we don’t need to keep finding more, new ingredients? Unfortunately it seems the marketing industry thrives on new and improved formulas, so it is still profitable despite the high expense of animal testing.
What can you do?
If you are opposed to animal testing, there is a simple way you can demonstrate this: through your buying power (which ultimately dictates the market) and only buying cruelty-free cosmetics. And how can you know if something truly is animal cruelty free?
- Look for a logo that verifies their status as animal cruelty-free. Locally, the Beauty Without Cruelty SA logo is used (see right). Or international brands may have one of these logos instead.
- Look at lists of products that have been approved as free of ingredients tested on animals, such as Beauty Without Cruelty’s humaneguide.co.za and green beauty and lifestyle blogger’s mybeautybunny.com. However, whatever list you find and decide to use, it might be wise to check when the list was last updated, as a brands status could change over time.
- Ask the company, via email or phone calls, to verify if they test on animals or if they use suppliers who do. Some brands don’t sport the cruelty free logos, but could still uphold these values.
You can also sign the Beauty Without Cruelty petition to end animal testing for cosmetics, and send it to the SA government, here: bwcsa.co.za/cosmetic-testing-petition
What is your favourite cruelty-free make-up brand?