The ugly side of beauty

A US company breeds beagles specifically for laboratory testing. Photo Pixabay
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Animals suffer so that we can look good. Breeanna Tirant explores the world of cosmetic testing.

That distinct scent of perfume you wear. That moisturiser you apply daily. That toothpaste you use morning and night. That shampoo you buy. That baby powder you use on your child. That sunscreen you take on vacation with you. That mascara you apply to your eye lashes before a night out.

All these much-loved cosmetics are tested on animals. Beauty is pain for animals, but not for much longer.

From as early as July 2017, any new cosmetic product tested on animals, or containing ingredients that have been tested on animals, will be banned in Australia. Existing products however will not be removed for sale.

Spokesperson of The Body Shop Australia, Deb Baxter, says, “Our population doesn’t want to see animals harmed, particularly harmed for the use of cosmetics and for our own vanity.”

Baxter has been an employee of The Body Shop for 24 years and has campaigned against cosmetic testing on animals since the early 90s. “It’s not hard to campaign against cosmetic testing on animals, but it can be challenging to get change made in the laws,” she says.

The new legislation will bring Australia in line with the European Union and New Zealand.

Baxter says The Body Shop partnered with Cruelty Free International in 2012. “That was the campaign that led to the change in the European union, where the animal testing was banned in March 2013.”

Surprisingly, animal testing is not being used in the production of cosmetics here in Australia.

Spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Australia (PETA), Laura Weyman-Jones, says, “No cosmetic company is testing their products on animals in Australia. Although, they import ingredients from other countries where animal testing is routine.”

According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Australians spend an average of $8 billion per year on beauty.

Consumers also need to be aware of other dangers arising from animal testing for the beauty industry. Despite testing on animals for cosmetic purposes for decades, if an animal is blinded by a product it can still be marketed and sold to consumers.

Weyman-Jones says, “It’s the anatomical differences between eyes. It’s not only harmful for the animals but these products can then be sold to humans and we don’t actually know how they’re going to react on human eyes.”

“It’s ridiculous because evidence shows that animal studies actually have very variable outcomes, very limited reliability, pretty poor predictors of how human skin and eyes will react.”

At least 56 per cent of Australians believe it’s not always safe to transfer results from animal research and apply it to human beings, according to a survey conducted by Nexus Research in 2013.

“It’s bad science to be testing on animals. It’s a lack of willingness to change and to look at the new opportunities that are obviously available through science. What right do we have to put innocent animals who have absolutely no choice in the matter into these types of circumstances?” says Weyman-Jones.

Baxter says, “There are both natural and synthetic alternatives to testing on animals within the cosmetics industry. It just doesn’t need to happen.”

There are alternatives to testing on animals. According to PETA’s website the main ones are; in vitro testing, computer (in silico) modelling, human volunteers and human-patient simulators.

“There are tests conducted on human volunteers, all human volunteers are sourced from an external market research agency. In vitro tests are like a test tube which tests on synthetic membranes, which actually mimic the human skin. L’Oréal themselves have developed a product called episkin, which is a synthetic skin replacement which they do their testing on now,” says Baxter.

The Body Shop does not test on animals. However, its parent company, L’Oréal, has in the past. Baxter says, “The Body Shop will never test on animals. L’Oréal no longer tests their finished product or its ingredients on animals, although they have in the past. The Body Shop has had quite an influence on L’Oréal, steering them and supporting them towards moving forward to being completely free of animal testing.”

Contradicting this, PETA’s website claims L’Oréal do still test on animals.

“More and more companies are moving toward the market and changing to cruelty free options, it is happening. It’s just taken some companies a little while to realise these options are not only better for customers, better for animals but actually better for their bottom line in most cases,” says Weyman-jones.

Some of the leading companies in Australia, including Unilever, Johnson and Johnson and Procter and Gamble have well known cosmetic brands which still test on animals.

Unilever is home to Lynx, Dove, Rexona, Tresemme, Vaseline, V05 and Simple. Procter and Gamble has brands like Oral B, Head and Shoulders, Covergirl, Pantene, Gillette, Herbal Essence, Clear Blue, Olay and Old Spice. Just to name a few.

Rats, mice, guinea pigs and rabbits are the animals used most frequently for cosmetic testing. Although dogs, cats and primates are also tested on too.

Weyman- Jones says, “They’re the animals used in laboratories forced to swallow or inhale massive quantities of test substances. They have the pain of chemicals dripped into their really sensitive little eyes.”

Beagle Freedom Australia rescues, rehabilitates and finds homes for beagles and other animal used in laboratory research. Spokesperson Nikki Steendam says: “Overseas, dogs are purpose bred, essentially it’s like buying stock.

Usually they will get them as puppies, although it depends. When they’re eight weeks old or onwards they like to see how they progress as they grow with what they’re having tested on them.”

Baxter says, “They’re living organisms just as much as we are, they feel pain, they feel stress. It is a really cruel thing to do. I could never condone any form of animal testing.”

Weyman- Jones says, “It’s not just about the testing, it’s also how they live in the laboratories. They’re often isolated, they often live among their own waste.”

Steendam knows too well the effects testing has on animals. She is the owner of the 11-year-old beagle, Ged. He was exposed to a life in a laboratory. Although she can’t gather what happened to him, he was traumatised from his exposure to animal testing.

“He was very overweight when I first got him two years ago. He didn’t like to be touched and was very un-socialised. He still is quite reserved,” she says.

As of July 2017, Australians won’t have to question if their everyday essential cosmetics have harmed an animal in the process. It will be mandatory.