Clothing & Cosmetics  > "Beauty Without Cruelty" Becomes Law in England


Merritt Clifton -- "Animal People", December 1998


Cosmetic product testing on animals was banned in Britain, effective November 16, 1998.


The British government, explained London Times political correspondent James Landale, "banned using animals to test final products such as lipsticks and mascara a year ago. At the same time it said there would be no new licenses for the testing of ingredients. But three firms which already held licenses were allowed to continue using animals."


That ended when the Home Office brokered a deal with the three companies to end all animal use in cosmetics testing.


The agreement somewhat resembles those that the late Animal Rights International founder Henry Spira won with Avon and Revlon in 1980, which many other U.S. cosmetics makers have since ratified.


As Associated Press noted, "The ban will not block animal testing for drugs and scientific research."


The British anti-vivisection movement, the world's oldest, commenced early in the 19th century. The longtime leader of the cause was Frances Moore Cobbe (1822-1904), who was obliged by financial distress to work as a vivisector's assistant while still in her teens, and devoted the rest of her life to crusading for abolition of the cruelty she had witnessed. Cobbe secured passage of the 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act, which required vivisectors to register with the government and to use anesthesia when possible. Though the strongest regulation of vivisection on the books anywhere at the time, and for many years afterward, the act fell well short of actually stopping experiments.


Cobbe had no cause to concern herself with cosmetics testing, because then, before the rise of consumer protection law, little if any was done. By the mid-1950s, however, the cosmetics industry had become one of the largest users of animals in laboratories. Muriel, the Lady Dowding (1908-1993), a lifelong humane crusader, formed Beauty Without Cruelty in 1959 specifically to oppose cosmetics testing. The British Union Against Vivisection did make cosmetic testing a priority after helping to secure passage of an update of Cobbe's Cruelty to Animals Act, the 1986 Scientific Procedures Act.


At least two other BWC spin-offs are prominent -- Beauty Without Cruelty-India, among the most militant and effective Indian animal rights organizations under Diana Ratnagar of Pune, and the American Fund for Alternatives to Animal Research, directed by Ethel Thurston of New York City, who also heads the U.S. chapter of BWC.


European Union


The British ban will have global resonance.


"The government will also be pressing its policy of ending animal testing for cosmetics at the European Union level, where EU policy on cosmetics testing is currently under review," Janice Cox and Wim de Kok of World Animal Net predicted.


BWC and AFAAR will ask the EU to accept a procedure which Thurston in an October 31 letter termed "a fully scientific replacement for the LD50 test, which can be used right away."


The traditional LD50 test involves feeding substances to groups of 100 animals until half the animals die. For most uses, it is superceded by LD10 -- but these tests do still use animals.


Funded for seven years by AFAAR, cytotoxicologist Bjorn Ekwall of Sweden has now developed human cell culture tests which in a combination of two, "predict human lethal concentrations with 71% precision," and in a combination of three, achieve 77% precision, Thurston said. "By the same multi variate analyses," Thurston continued, "the rat and mouse LD50s predict human lethal doses at only 65% precision."


Home Office secretary George Howarth said the Labour government would continue to seek reduction of animal use in laboratories in other directions, as well. Already it has increased funding for investigation of alternatives to animal research; banned animal use in testing alcohol and tobacco products; banned the use of gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos; and increased the Home Office laboratory inspection staff.