A Cruel Treat: An investigation into animal testing
Becky Bird investigates the rapid change of animal testing and the creation of 'cruelty-free' fragrances as they enter the consumer world.
Written on 27 February, 2013 by bbird.
Animal testing, a taboo subject at best, but is it necessary in the fragrance industry? UK law both requires and regulates testing on animals. It does state that any new drug must be tested on at least two different types of species which must be a live mammal, and one of these must be a large non-rodent. However since 1822, the legislation controls the way in which scientists can test on animals. Since the creation of this act, it has become more strict and rigid as years and technology has developed.
In 1996, the government announced a voluntary agreement with the cosmetic industry that stated it would no longer issue licenses to test on cosmetic products on animals. However this does not ban the selling of goods and cosmetics tested on animals that have been conducted abroad. Countries such as Japan and USA can still legally test new chemicals and cosmetics on animals as it is required for safety reasons, so although the animal testing may not have happened in the UK, the cosmetic product with this testing may still be sold over here.
Fragrances are tested on animals, just like many other cosmetics and drugs, to ensure they are safe enough for human use. There are a number of ways perfumes are tested on animals; one way is through different types of irritation test. The most popular is the 'Draize Eye/Skin test' where the perfume is rubbed into the skin of a rabbit and also dropped into the eye of the animal to detect any harm for humans. Rodents are used in testing for poisonous chemicals in perfumes. Toxicity tests are performed by inhalation or force feeding large amount of the chemical to the mice. However the genetic make up of animals compared to humans is evidently extremely different. It is common sense not to spray perfume in your eyes and then not immediately wash it out, yet this accidental spritz may have a completely different corrosive reaction to that of the eye of a rodent.
Research conducted by PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, found that over a million animals, from rats to monkeys, are used for all kinds of animal testing on a yearly basis. Approximately 38,000 of these animals have cosmetic products, such as perfumes and shampoo, tested on them across the EU. A spokesperson from Animal Aid said: "Cosmetic tests make up 0.3% of all animal experiments. However, this still translates into thousands of animals. Additionally, non-animal safety tests which would be developed as a result of a cosmetics testing ban, could also be applicable when testing chemicals and pharmaceuticals, meaning that millions of animals could be saved in these areas too." But is there a fool-proof way to rid animal testing altogether?
A number of alternatives have been tried and tested to replace animal testing, however due to their lack of funding have not been successful. There are 'in vito' methods which are tests that take place in a test tube, instead of in the human body (in vivo). So far three 'in vito' tests have been validated within the EU: one used for photo-toxicity, which measures the reaction to sunlight, and two tests for skin corrosion. These tests use a small amount of human skin therefore the results will be 100% useful for human use, yet authorities are reluctant to accept these as 'scientifically-validated non-animal' tests.
When you think of the word 'vegan', you may automatically think of hippy, earthy and the loss of luxury, however a new era of cruelty free fragrances has made its way into our society. Colognes are made from natural products that do not need to be animal tested, but the class and luxury of perfumes still lives on. Dolma perfumes, established in 1982, is one of the longest running creators of vegan fragrance products. Perfumes are made up of essential oils with perfumey scents and ethyl alcohol. A spokesperson from Dolma said: "Why should animals be abused when it is not necessary? Animal substances are often used as perfumey fixatives but we have shown that quality perfumes can be produced without any animal's cruelty whatsoever."
International fragrance, fashion and cosmetic company Puig is one of the biggest supports of cruelty free perfumes. Puig create fragrances from Prada to Paco Rabanne to Shakira which have now joint the campaign against animal testing. Working amongst the 'five year rolling rule' which states that the product has not been tested on any animals in the past five years, so if the product was tested in 2012, it would not be able to be put on the market until 2017. Puig has been hailed as one of the major consumer perfume companies working in partnership with PETA to stamp out the cruelty of animal testing. Benjamin Williamson, press officer for PETA said: "The success of brands such as Lush and The Body Shop show that animal testing is a live issue for the cosmetics industry – these are brands that aren’t just opposed to animal testing but that actively campaign against it. The recent and very welcome decisions by Urban Decay and Paul Mitchell to reverse plans to sell in China – and thus be required to test on animals – after talks with PETA US show that companies also respond to pressure from consumers and campaigners.”
The choice still remains if you want to dose yourself in sweet scents like a movie star, or save yourself for a special occasion, the ‘cruelty-free’ range is ever-growing for the perfume-loving consumer. Just like any other products, it doesn’t take long to find out where your favourite fragrance really comes from…
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