Posted by Kerry Postlewhite on 9th April 2019
We can’t let them turn the clock back on cruelty free cosmetics in Europe
How the EU animal cosmetics testing bans are under threat and what we’re doing to protect them
Stop the overREACH
In March, I spoke to Members of the European Parliament at the last meeting of the all-party group on animal welfare before May’s Euro elections.
I was there to talk about the risk to cruelty free cosmetics in the European Union from both the way in which the EU’s civil service is interpreting and implementing the animal testing bans and from mission creep by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
The EU Cosmetics Regulation was truly ground-breaking – phasing in a ban on the use of safety testing data derived from animals and on the sale of newly animal-tested cosmetics in Europe. By 2013 – when the full package of bans came into force – MEPs had gained agreement from the other decision-making arms of the EU that cosmetics and cosmetics ingredients would not be tested on animals even if non-animal testing methods had, by that time, not been validated and accepted. That such legislation could be enacted in the world’s biggest cosmetics market and right across an entire region was inspiring – law-makers around the world have since been basing cosmetics testing prohibitions on the agreement in the EU regulation.
I think it’s important to remind ourselves that the EU restrictions were hard won. The initial proposal from the European Commission was weak and made no reference to a marketing ban – leaving the door open for companies to use data from animal tests commissioned and carried out overseas. A large number of member state governments were opposed to the bans, and the cosmetics industry fought the idea tooth and nail. Yet the prohibitions – albeit in compromise form – won the day, almost entirely because of the passion and commitment of Members of the European Parliament who were buoyed by overwhelming support from citizens across Europe. The very clear political intention – backed by the public – was that the use of animals to test cosmetics in Europe and the use of information gleaned from animal testing outside the EU to demonstrate the safety of a cosmetic would no longer be allowed. No ifs and no buts.
What’s happening now?
The European Commission – the European Union’s civil service – and ECHA argue that chemical safety laws in the EU (the so-called REACH regulations) mean that they still require animal testing for substances that might be used in cosmetics if there is a possibility of workforce exposure during the manufacturing process. Of course, we all want to make sure that workers’ health and safety are protected – but stipulating animal tests for cosmetic substances is not the way to do it. In addition, it now appears that animal tests are increasingly being required for substances used exclusively in cosmetics and – in some cases – irrespective of potential workforce exposure.
The conclusion is that the Commission and ECHA have decided that REACH trumps the Cosmetics Regulation. That was never meant to be the case. And we would argue that this interpretation violates the Cosmetics Regulation, contradicts rulings by the European Court of Justice and the ECHA Board of Appeal and – importantly – is not what Europe’s decision-makers intended when they signed-off the Cosmetics Regulation nor what the people of Europe expected.
That animals continue to suffer for cosmetics is something we must bring to an end.
What can we do?
We’ll be working with partners in Europe to make sure that this issue is raised loud and clear in the European election campaign over the coming weeks. We’ll be asking new Members of the European Parliament when they return to Brussels in July to use all the powers they have to hold the Commission and ECHA to account.
The MEPs present at the Intergroup meeting also signalled that they’ll do everything they can too. We wish them well.
In the meantime, please make your voice heard by signing our #StopTheOverREACH petition.