white-rabbitTwo important comments have long been made about testing cosmetics on animals in the United States. The first is that it is an extremely cruel practice responsible for the torture and death of countless rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, and other animals.

The second is that no federal law requires it. (Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, cosmetics companies are prohibited from manufacturing and marketing misbranded or adulterated products, and they are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before those products reach the market. It does not say products must be tested on animals.) Nevertheless, manufacturers are encouraged to conduct whatever toxicological tests they believe are appropriate to substantiate the safety of their products. Thus, in an effort to cover their assets in the event of a lawsuit, companies subject conscious animals to an extensive range of painful “safety tests” in which corrosive chemicals are dripped into their eyes, toxic compounds already known to be fatal to humans are pumped into their stomachs, caustic irritants are rubbed into their skin, or an assortment of other unspeakable tortures that result in a painful death.

We can now add a third comment about testing cosmetics on animals in the US: Banning it might be just around the corner.

This week, a federal bill that would end animal testing for cosmetics was reintroduced* by US Representatives Martha McSally (R-AZ), Joe Heck (R-NV), Don Beyer (D-VA), and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA). If passed, HR 4148—the Humane Cosmetics Act—would make it illegal for any company to conduct cosmetic animal testing, or sell cosmetic products that have been tested on animals. (The US bill comes just days after a similar bill was introduced in Canada.)

I asked Pascaline Clerc, senior director of policy and advocacy of Animal Research Issues for The Humane Society of the United States, for more information about the bill and how the public can help get it passed.

Many countries around the world—including India, Israel, and the European Union—have banned cosmetics testing on animals. What keeps the US from prohibiting it?

People thought that animal testing for cosmetics was an issue of the past. Our #BeCrueltyFree campaign in the US, and worldwide with the help of Humane Society International, had to raise awareness on this issue.

There is really nothing keeping the US from prohibiting animal testing of cosmetics:

– multi-national companies have been investing in developing alternatives, and they already have to comply with such regulations in the EU and India by using faster, cheaper, and more predictive alternatives to traditional animal tests to test new ingredients.

– more than 30 countries have legislation in place banning animal testing for cosmetics.

– our neighbor Canada has introduced similar legislation last week.

– the issue has rallied bipartisan support.

– China, where animal testing is still required for imported products and for post-marketing monitoring, is slowly making progress, and our organization is actively working in the country to change policy and educate scientists on state-of-the-art in vitro methods to test cosmetics instead of using live animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs. The HSUS, HIS, and the Human Toxicology Project Consortium, in partnership with the Institute for In Vitro Sciences, provided intensive laboratory-based training.

What do you believe the chances are for this bill becoming law?

More than 30 countries—home to more than 1.7 billion consumers—now have legislation in place banning animal testing for cosmetics. Similar legislation to limit or end such testing is also under consideration in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, and now in the US. Of the 13 biggest importers of American cosmetics, eight countries have bans in place, legislation introduced or in negotiation, so if the US wants to remain a leader in the industry, the US will have to align their regulations with the rest of the world.

Multi-national companies have been investing in developing alternatives, and they already have to comply with such regulations in the EU and India by using faster, cheaper, and more predictive alternatives to traditional animal tests to test new ingredients. So, it would only make sense for them to have to follow the same regulations in the US and take advantage of cutting-edge technology.

Additionally, this bill has brought an unprecedented bipartisan quartet of sponsors.

What can the public do to help this bill pass?

There are two easy things that any consumers can do:

1st: Take action by urging your representative to support the Humane Cosmetics Act here.
2nd: Use your buying power to drive changes by only buying products from cruelty-free companies that you can find at http://www.leapingbunny.org

 

*This bill was previously introduced by former Representative James Moran (D-VA) in March of 2014. This new version focuses on economic issues and would go into effect in one year.