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Animal testing has always been something of an inconvenient truth. In the back of our minds, we know that somewhere, in some dark corner of the world, there are laboratories filled with animals, from mice to dogs, subjected to various painful testing methods to bring us the best medicine available. Testing on animals for medical purposes is a controversial issue, but animal testing in the cosmetic industry is even more so. Many people believe that in this day and age, testing cosmetics on animals is a rare thing, yet this is simply not the case. In fact – the extent that animal testing is still used in the cosmetic industry is shocking, and you’re probably more implicated in the routine torture of animals than you’d like to think.
Until 2013, nearly all of the leading cosmetic brands tested their products on animals. Thanks to a ban that came into force last year though, this type of testing is now forbidden for products sold in the EU, but does that mean us Brits can breathe a sigh of relief? Unfortunately not. While in the EU testing cosmetics on animals is now illegal, in China it is illegal NOT to test on animals.
So what has that got to do with us? Well, many companies that provide us with our shampoos and shower gels also provide China with theirs. This means that whenever we buy one of their products, we are inadvertently funding the testing that goes on abroad. The unnerving truth is that animal testing is embedded into our daily lives – we just don’t realise it.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Perhaps you take a shower. While you’re rubbing shower gel into your armpits or massaging shampoo into your hair, it’s unlikely that you’d consider the suffering that innocent animals endure to give you such sweet-smelling, dandruff free hair. And why would you? Surely your shampoo is cruelty free, right? Well, not until last year. But even now, those same companies are still testing on animals outside of the EU.
Are you a Head & Shoulders man? If so, you probably won’t be pleased to know that the anti-dandruff shampoo’s manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, still tests on animals. Maybe you prefer the fruity fragrance of Herbal Essences or the manly scent of Old Spice? Well tough luck – because they’re owned by the same company. Even if you manage to escape Procter & Gamble by opting for shampoo made by Garnier or Dove you’re still missing the mark – because these companies test on animals too.
Procter & Gamble has long been criticised for its testing methods and is a huge manufacturer of cosmetics sold all over the world, including China. What’s really frightening is the amount of products they own – your shampoo and shower gel is just the tip of the iceberg. They likely own your shaving products (Gillette), or your toilet paper (Charmin), your washing up liquid (Fairy) or your laundry detergent (Bold, Ariel). The fact is, every time we buy one of these products, we support a company that has a history of animal testing.
But hey, this is 2014 – just how bad can these tests be? Maybe the bunnies and puppies like being pampered with all these top of the range cosmetics. Unfortunately, though, testing cosmetics doesn’t involve washing guinea pigs’ hair or giving manicures to kittens. Testing shampoo normally involves applying chemicals to an animal’s shaved skin, or worse still, directly into their eyes. In most cases, animals are not given pain-relief and studies have noted how animals kept in labs can suffer from depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders. Once the tests have been completed, the animals are normally destroyed, often by means of asphyxiation or a broken neck, or they are tested on again for new products.
The sad truth is that although the products we use within the EU are cruelty free, many companies that own these brands regularly carry out brutal, inhumane tests on innocent, unwilling animals. But we, as consumers, do have a choice. By actively seeking out products that are cruelty free, we are sending a clear message to these big corporations that we will not stand for animal testing. Until we do that however, we remain more implicated in the suffering of these animals than any of us would like to believe.