The news we have all been waiting for is here. Kind of. This week China’s Food and Drug Administration announced a step-towards removing animal testing as a mandatory requirement for cosmetics sold in their country. Cruelty-free beauty shoppers burst into song and dance at the news thinking their favourites will now be back on the Leaping Bunny and PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies list ….. but the celebrations are a little premature. The news isn’t clean cut and is actually rather confusing so I’m going to tell you what you may be missing from between the lines, and why you should run back to your favourite brands JUST YET.
First, let’s recap the announcement.
China Implements Rule Change
Humane Society International (HSI) released a statement on June 30, 2014 that was a little long and rather confusing if you aren’t spending your days working in cosmetics. The general statements included:
China has taken another important step towards ending cruel animal testing for cosmetics. From June 30, animal testing for ordinary cosmetics produced and sold inside China will no longer be legally mandated. This historic rule change comes following two years of effort by the Be Cruelty-Free China campaign run by Humane Society International’s Beijing team and its Chinese animal group partners.
Peter Li, PhD, HSI’s China policy adviser, said: “This is an important first step for China in moving away from cruel and unreliable animal testing for cosmetics. Our Be Cruelty-Free campaign has worked hard to achieve this milestone, but we know much work remains before we eliminate all cosmetics animal testing in China, so we are not resting on our laurels. In making this rule change, China is acknowledging the global trend towards cruelty-free cosmetics, and that’s hugely significant.”
It is estimated that between 100,000 and 300,000 rabbits, guinea-pigs, mice and other animals have, until now, been used to test cosmetics in China every year. If every eligible company took advantage of the policy change, we estimate up to 10,000 animals a year could be saved in China. During cosmetics testing, animals can have chemicals dripped in their eyes, spread on their skin or force-fed to them in massive, lethal doses. As well as causing animal suffering, many of these tests are notoriously unreliable in predicting real chemical reactions in people.
Peter Li explains that the next phase in HSI’s campaign is to see the rule change applied to foreign imported cosmetics too, as well as to end ad hoc post-market animal testing whereby cosmetics already on sale are chosen at random for extra testing.
Li said: “We know that many cruelty-free companies will be keen to sell in China, but they need to be cautious. China will almost certainly increase its post-market surveillance testing, so I’m afraid for the time being it is impossible for a cruelty-free company to manufacture and sell in China without the risk that its products will be dripped in a rabbit’s eyes or forced down a mouse’s throat. We’re determined to end all such suffering, and this rule change is a step in the right direction, but we’re not there yet.”
Global cruelty-free retailer and Be Cruelty-Free campaign supporter, LUSH Cosmetics, does not sell in China because animal testing contravenes its strict ethical policy.
What it really means
Ok so it’s lots of good news but there are keywords people are missing when reading this statement. Words like “IMPORTED”, “ORDINARY” and “ELIGIBLE”. Here’s where it gets tricky. Majority of those brands and products you are now thinking will be safe are not.
Let’s look at the specifics …
- Foreign imported ordinary cosmetics – still require animal testing
- Domestically produced ordinary* cosmetics – animal testing no longer an absolute requirement
- Both foreign imported and domestically produced ‘special use’** cosmetics – still require animal testing
- Domestically produced ordinary cosmetics for foreign export only – have never required animal testing
- Any cosmetic bought in China via a foreign e-commerce website – has never required animal testing.
*‘Ordinary’ cosmetics include make-up, fragrances, skin, hair and nail care products.
** ‘Special-use’ cosmetics include hair dyes, perms and hair growth products, deodorants, sunscreens, skin-whitening creams, and other products that make a functional claim on the label.
To help you understand where some of your favourite brands and products sit, I’ve picked a random selection of products from my beauty cupboard to work out how this news changes their status.
- Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash – Made in the USA but Neutrogena is imported into China so they’re NOT cruelty-free.
- Dove Original Anti-Perspirant – Made in the Philippines but Dove is imported into China and this product is considered ‘special use’ so it’s NOT cruelty-free.
- Garnier Moisture Match Ultra-Hydrating Rich Cream – Made in France but Garnier is imported into China so they’re NOT cruelty-free.
- Clarins Eye Revive Beauty Flash – Made in France but Clarins is imported into China so they’re NOT cruelty-free.
- Avon True Color Eyeshadow Duo – Made in China and considered an ‘ordinary’ cosmetic so now Avon have the choice to discontinue animal testing.
- Maybelline NY FITme Shine-Free Foundation – Made in the USA but Maybelline NY is imported into China so they’re NOT cruelty-free.
- Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss – Made in the USA but Revlon is imported into China so they’re NOT cruelty-free.
- Laura Mercier Illuminating Eye Colour – Made in Italy but Laura Mercier is imported into China so they’re NOT cruelty-free.
When I heard the news I went straight to Cruelty Free International to help me understand the news. Nick Palmer is the Director of Policy for the organisation broke it down for us a little more:
Examples of products now possible in China without animal tests: shampoo, lipstick, perfume, hair dye
Examples of products not yet allowed without animal testing: skin whitening cream (quite widespread in China), any import
Important note: A “domestic” product can be made abroad and imported and just bottled in China. Cruelty Free International is talking to regulators and laboratories (I have two weeks of discussions in Beijing, Shanghai and other locations next month) and we are confident that the import rules will change too, probably by 2016.
This means we still have a lot of work to do if we want to see China be more lenient on their animal testing stance. You can help by signing HSI’s pledge to be cruelty-free. This will send a strong message to China and other nations that you want to see the end of animal testing.
Understand what animal testing involves and why it’s not good for the beauty industry.
For now, my advice to anyone who wants to only purchase cruelty-free products, stick to buying from companies certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny, PETA.org and CCF. You will also find a cruelty-free status in each of our product reviews to assist you in making decisions.
What’s your opinion of this news? Do you need further clarification on any points? Let me know by commenting below!