Last week, the European Commission kick-started a plan to phase out animal testing for chemicals across Europe but will not protect the EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics. This is in response to the “Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics – Commit to a Europe Without Animal Testing” European citizens’ initiative (ECI) signed by 1.2 million European citizens.
While campaigners welcome the plan to ultimately eliminate animal testing for chemicals and the longer-term proposals to reduce and phase out the use of animals in research and education, the Commission ignored citizens’ calls to uphold the ban on animal testing for cosmetics; a ban established by legislators over a decade ago.
Despite the introduction of an EU ban on animal testing for cosmetic ingredients in 2009, animal tests for chemicals handled by industrial workers, or which may be released into the environment, are still being required under the EU’s REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation. Disturbingly, proposed updates to REACH indicate that animal testing for chemicals is set to surge over the coming years. Rather than waiting for the EU courts to resolve this issue, citizens’ demands must be addressed to prevent further animal suffering.
In the EU and Norway, a shocking 7.9 million animals suffered in laboratories in 2020 – among them rabbits, mice, cats, and dogs. Substances are forcibly administered down their throats, and they are infected with debilitating diseases, genetically manipulated, given brain damage through surgery, exposed to severe pain, and used in breeding programs that perpetuate this cycle of suffering. Although the Commission is exploring actions to accelerate the development and use of non-animal methods, these do not constitute the root-and-branch reform demanded by EU citizens via the ECI.
The ECI was launched in August 2021 by animal protection groups Cruelty Free Europe, Eurogroup for Animals, the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, Humane Society International/Europe, and PETA, with the backing of beauty brands The Body Shop and Dove.
The ECI called for the strengthening and protection of the ban on animal testing for cosmetics, the transformation of chemical regulations to bring an end to testing on animals, and a commitment to phase out all testing on animals in Europe.
Positive commitments made by the Commission in response to the ECI include the following:
To develop a roadmap to end all mandated tests on animals for industrial chemicals, pesticides, biocides, and human and veterinary medicines
To explore the creation of an expert scientific committee to provide advice on the development and uptake of non-animal approaches
To propose an action of the European Research Area to coordinate national policies to replace the use of animals in laboratories and speed up development and implementation of non-animal methods
To organize one or more workshops with experts to determine future priority areas of research to accelerate the transition to animal-free science.