Vanessa Stevens & Olivia Sandlant, May 2022

Animal testing is a highly controversial topic, and the variety of industries that engage in this goes well beyond the cosmetics industry. Views on this range from complete opposition to any form of testing to support for biomedical reasons.

Over the last few hundred years experimenting on animals was a common practice, to develop knowledge on how our bodies function. Animal testing and experimentation date back to the ancient Grecian days, and it was not until the 1600s that people started to question the ethics of this. Today, the use of animal testing for cosmetics has been banned in many countries and become increasingly regulated for biomedical research.

The earliest evidence of animal testing dates back to around 300BC when ancient Greek writings were found describing experiments that were performed on animals. The Greek physician-scientists Aristotle and Erasistratus were among the first to dissect animals to discover the functions of living organisms.

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Throughout the centuries, various biomedical animal experiments have been undertaken, including those to help develop modern vaccines such as those against Polio, TB, and meningitis.

Testing cosmetics on animals wasn’t commonplace until 1938, when the US legislated that cosmetics must be tested on animals under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Despite this introduction of a law to mandate animal testing, there were no accompanying regulations on animal welfare at that time.

In 1986, the UK introduced a world leading piece of legislation to regulate the use, and treatment, of live animals in scientific research. A decade later, the UK banned animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients.

Since then, more than 41 countries have passed laws to limit or ban cosmetics animal testing. This includes New Zealand, which banned animal testing on cosmetics for products made in this country in 2015.

Interestingly, while in the US there is no longer a requirement to test cosmetics on animals, there is also no law banning testing. Having said that, several States have banned the sale of animal tested cosmetics in recent years, which suggests legislation could be introduced soon.

Developments across other parts of the world have been positive and negative for those concerned about animal testing.

In late 2021 China allowed ordinary cosmetics, such as shampoo and mascara, to be sold without the need for animal testing. In contrast, the European Chemicals Agency now requires some companies to carry out new tests on animals to evaluate certain substances that are already widely used in the industry.

With the rise and gradual fall of animal testing for cosmetics, companies and investors are also focusing on the use of animal testing for biomedical reasons. Many regulators still require pharmaceuticals and the like to be tested in this way.

When assessing companies on the use of animals for research we ask the following questions:

  • Is the company actively trying to reduce the use of animals for testing?
  • Is it a member of groups that are collaborating and advancing non-animal tests?
  • Is it advocating for the elimination of tests?
  • Is it being transparent about the use of animals for testing?

Some of the leaders in the animal testing space include L’Oréal, Unilever, and Zoetis.

L’Oréal pioneered the development of human reconstructed skin that can evaluate how cosmetic ingredients and products behave on human skin and Unilever has been developing and using alternatives to animal testing since the 1980’s, such as computer modelling and cell culture-based experiments. Zoetis is also committed to the development and use of scientifically validated alternative methods and participates in cross-industry efforts.

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This is an excerpt of an article first published in the April 2022 edition of News & Views. Craigs Investment Partners clients can view the latest edition of News & Views, which includes the full version of this article, by logging in to Client Portal.