Product Testing: The Struggle in Europe
arch 11, 2009 was an auspicious date in the long struggle against animal experiments. This was the day when the 7th Amendment to the European Cosmetics Directive finally came into force. The 7th Amendment introduced sweeping bans on animal testing, but because of loopholes, arguments over the implementation of the law, and confusions within it, this major step forward has not come without its battles. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), working with its counterparts in other European Union (EU) countries as the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, had been at the forefront of the campaign to end cosmetics testing on animals since 1990. It is astonishing that it took so long, given the overwhelmingly strong public opposition to barbaric tests such as the Draize test, where shampoo and other substances are
20 2010 Consumer Power for Animals
placed into the eyes of conscious rabbits. The animal-testing industry fought a fierce and sustained battle against the bans, and pulled every lobbying and PR trick in the book in the process, but the 7th Amendment finally won out, making the European Cosmetics Directive a significant milestone on the path to compassion. So what does the Cosmetics Directive now do? Without diminishing a company’s duty to produce safe products, it introduces two different types of ban. First, it bans the use of animals to test cosmetic products and their ingredients in the 27 EU member states. This is an unconditional ban—it does not depend on the availability of non-animal alternatives for the tests in question. The one exception to the ban occurs when there is a serious safety issue involved with a substance, but the conditions are stringent and should rarely if ever be met. Second, there is a ban on the EU sale and import of cosmetics where the products or ingredients are tested on animals after March 2009. This is called the “marketing” ban. It is particularly significant because it applies wherever in the world the test takes place, including the U.S. This matters because it is easy for big multinationals such as L’Oréal to shift their testing beyond the borders of Europe. However, there is a significant loophole in the marketing ban. Imported cosmetics that have been tested on animals outside the EU can still be sold in Europe if the testing falls into three particular endpoints: repeat-dose toxicity, toxicokinetics, and reproductive toxicity. The loophole applies until March 2013,
assuming non-animal alternatives have not been developed, validated, and adopted by the European Commission, which is responsible for implementing the Directive, beforehand. That deadline can be extended if it is clear that there will not be alternatives by then. So, unlike the EU testing ban, the marketing ban is partially conditional, based on a product’s need for certain types of testing. This was the result of a messy political compromise. In fact, the BUAV is currently in dispute with the European Commission about the scope of the exception. The Commission has argued that skin sensitisation and carcinogenicity tests fall under the umbrella of repeat-dose toxicity, one of the exceptions of the marketing ban, on the basis that an animal may be given more than one dose of a substance. But this is toxicologically illiterate. EU legislation and international guidelines regard skin sensitisation and carcinogenicity as discrete from repeat-dose toxicity. Further, skin sensitisation tests measure immune response rather than the effects of cumulative exposure, as with repeatdose toxicity. The Commission is trying to turn the marketing ban into one which is wholly conditional on alternatives being available, but it is not permitted to do so, and the BUAV will, if necessary, bring a legal challenge. The episode is further reminder of the need for animal protection groups to be ever vigilant. Even when we manage to secure positive legislative change—and we all know how difficult that is—we have to ensure that it is implemented and interpreted properly.
PHOTOs BY Istockphoto
By Michelle Thew
Consumer Power for Animals