The Fight is Not Over: New Australian Legislation Restricts Cosmetics Animal Testing but it is Still Not Enough.
On 1 July 2020, the Industrial Chemicals Act 2019 came into force. The Act restricts the use of new animal test data for cosmetics safety testing. From this date, any new industrial chemicals solely used in cosmetics cannot use new animal test data to prove safety, whether the chemicals are being manufactured in or imported into Australia.
The Industrial Chemicals Act is part of a suite of legislative reforms for the safe introduction of industrial chemicals into the Australian market. Choose Cruelty Free (CCF) and Humane Research Australia (HRA) welcome the legislative progress as it discourages irritancy and toxicity testing on animals and provides incentive for the industry to adopt animal-free testing methods, of which there are many.
It is estimated that around 500,000 animals suffer and die in cruel and outdated tests of cosmetic ingredients or products each year around the world (Humane Society International). Rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and rats are the most common animals used to test cosmetics, subjected to having cosmetic chemicals dripped in their eyes, spread on their shaved skin, or force fed to them orally in massive, even lethal doses.
Such suffering is completely unnecessary. Validated alternatives include:
- In Vitro testing methods – which use reconstructed tissues, whole cells or parts of cells;
- In Silico methods – which involve computer simulations of effects based on chemical structure and physical properties; and
- Read across methods – where the effects for one chemical are predicted using data for the same effect from another chemical, which is considered to be similar in terms of chemical structure, physico-chemical properties or bioactivity.
The new legislation unfortunately does not constitute a comprehensive ban on the use of animal test data for cosmetics. Contrary to media reporting of the Industrial Chemicals Act as a ‘cosmetics testing ban’, in practice, there are numerous loopholes and exemptions in the legislation that will continue to allow animal testing.
LOOPHOLES OF THE INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS ACT
The new legislation:
- Only applies to industrial chemicals which are used solely in cosmetics. It does not restrict the use of animal test data for industrial chemicals that are multi end use. Unfortunately, most cosmetics are formulated using both sole and multi-end use industrial chemicals so products may continue to have their ingredients animal tested. Citric Acid, for example, is used in multiple industries such as food, cosmetics and cleaning products.
- Allows for sole use chemicals to continue to utilise animal test data, under three significant exemptions.
- Does not prohibit the marketing or sale of cosmetic products tested on animals
- Only relates to the testing of chemical ingredients, not to finished cosmetics products. Although no animal testing of cosmetics has occurred in Australia for years, legislation is essential to ensure that we don’t slip backwards and to advance alternatives to animal testing. We expect this will be covered under the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Animal Ethics Code which is being revised from the 2013 Code.
- Does not apply to historical animal test data. The restrictions only apply to data obtained by animal tests conducted after 1 July 2020.
As a result of these limitations, this legislation does not mean that every cosmetic, personal care or cleaning product on Australian shelves is free of animal testing.
CCF and HRA are calling for this act to be strengthened by a legislated prohibition of animal test data for chemicals used in cosmetics, whether they be sole use or multi-end use. Since the adoption of the EU ban on cosmetics testing on animals, the development of non-animal tests has accelerated. Non-animal tests are more likely to provide accurate data to ensure human safety and are quicker and cheaper than animal testing. Further to this, disallowing the use of chemicals based on there being insufficient safety data (i.e. no valid non-animal/alternative tests) will thus provide incentive for our government and research community to invest further resources into the development of non-animal tests.
As a consumer, what can you do to take action?
Consumers are integral to the cruelty free movement. Here is what you can do:
- Contact your MP
CCF has been fighting since 1992 for a total ban on the importation and sale of cosmetics tested on animals in Australia, and we still do not have that. Animals will continue to suffer and die in animal laboratories.
- Use the CCF List.
It is now more important than ever to continue to use the CCF List as a valued resource to ensure that your products are free from animal testing. Support companies that are accredited as cruelty-free, and use the Choose Cruelty Free List as a valued resource via online, pocket list guide, the free mobile app or the printed list.
- Reach out to your favourite brands:
Unfortunately, anyone can make a claim that their products are cruelty-free, and/or use an unofficial logo. If one of your favourite brands is not on the CCF List, take a few minutes to contact them. Reach out via social media, email directly or make a phone call asking them why they are not accredited with Choose Cruelty Free. The animals can’t speak up, so we have to give them a voice.
Read more via Choose Cruelty Free and Humane Research Australia