Animal rights campaigners have warned that a new ruling on animal testing could be set to ‘blow a hole’ in the UK’s cruelty-free cosmetics industry.
The UK has established itself as one of the world’s leading countries when it comes to cruelty-free cosmetics, having been among the first to ban animal testing for ingredients solely used in cosmetics products in 1998.
However, a leading charity has warned that the government has recently changed its guidance to open the door for animal testing in more cases, as it looks to align itself with a recent European court ruling on the issue.
Cruelty Free International (CFI) says it has been informed by the UK Home Office that the government has ‘reconsidered its policy’ on animal testing in light of a European Chemicals Agency (ECA) decision, which ruled that some cosmetics ingredients were required to be tested on animals to ensure they are safe.
In a letter, the Home Office said that while the UK ban remains in place, the government planned to ‘publicly clarify its position now with the formal publication of an updated policy and regulatory guidance’.
‘The government is saying that even ingredients used solely in cosmetics, and with a history of safe use, can be subjected to animal tests in the UK,’ CFI director of science and regulatory affairs, Dr Katy Taylor, told The Guardian.
‘This decision blows a hole in the UK’s longstanding leadership of no animal testing for cosmetics and makes a mockery of the country’s quest to be at the cutting edge of research and innovation, relying once again on cruel and unjustifiable tests that date back over half a century,’ she added.
According to Dr Julia Fentem, head of Unilever’s safety and environmental assurance centre, there are roughly 100 cosmetics-only chemicals that could be subject to animal testing under the regulations.
She added that the UK’s decision was a ‘retrograde step’, and that the ECA regulations ‘don’t align with the science that we’ve got’.
A 2020 survey found that public attitudes in the UK remain firmly opposed to animal testing, with 84% of respondents saying they wouldn’t buy a product if they knew it had been tested on animals.
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