PETA India won the the 2012 Lush Prize for Lobbying. Here's a little more about their work to fight animal testing...
Could you describe who you are and what you do?
PETA stands for: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA India is the nation’s best-known animal protection organisation, and there are other PETA affiliates around the world. Part of my role as science policy adviser at PETA is to work with national policy-making bodies, such as the Bureau of Indian Standards and the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to promote non-animal testing methods. A major part of my focus has been to encourage the Indian government to follow the progressive examples of the European Union and Israel, which have already imposed bans on cosmetics that have been tested on animals.
Why were you nominated for the Prize?
We are the only animal rights organisation to hold an official seat on both committees of the Bureau of Indian Standards that set the precedents for the safety testing of cosmetics and household products, namely, the Cosmetics Sectional Committee and the Soaps and Other Surface Active Agents Sectional Committee. Our close relationship with the scientists and government officials involved allows us to lobby much more effectively for humane testing methods, which is why we were nominated in the lobbying category.
Why did you win the Prize?
Lush recognised both our work to change government policies regarding animal testing and our efforts to help consumers choose cruelty-free products. We presented the Cosmetics Sectional Committee and the Soaps and Other Surface Active Agents Sectional Committee with scientific critiques of the unreliability of current animal-based testing procedures. We also supplied them with information about many non-animal methods approved by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Both committees approved the results of humane tests as an accurate measure of product safety, including one non-animal method that replaces skin irritation tests.
We approached the issue from all sides. We lobbied the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Indian Council of Medical Research to support a ban, and received assistance from the Animal Welfare Board of India, a statutory body operating under the Ministry of Environment and Forests. We held several eye-catching demonstrations to protest against cruelly-tested cosmetics, enlisted some of our favourite stars to push for a ban, and made a cruelty-free logo available to those companies that do not test on animals. We also started an online database to make it easier for consumers to determine which products are tested on animals and which are not.
What difference has winning the Prize made to your contribution to the goal of Replacement?
The monetary prize allowed us to intensify our lobbying efforts, which earned us the support of several more Members of Parliament, and to present arguments to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI). After hearing from PETA, the offices of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader, L.K. Advani, urged ministers to consider PETA’s pleas that cosmetics and household-product testing should also be banned. Their backing, together with the information that we submitted to the policymakers who determine India’s product-safety testing standards, led to a significant victory: the DCGI announced an end to testing cosmetics and their ingredients on animals.
Could you outline how your work overlaps with current government ethical policy?
In 2007, the Government banned the cruel Draize skin and eye irritancy tests performed on rabbits. Now we will focus on getting a ban passed that will prohibit cosmetics companies that test their products on animals outside India from marketing them in India, and we will encourage the Indian government to ban the testing of household products and their ingredients on animals.
What does winning the Prize mean to your organisation?
Earning the recognition of the Lush Prize committee has made me and everyone at PETA India grateful that our efforts to save animals from cruel and crude tests are being recognised and found worthy of merit. We were able to use the prize money to enhance our efforts enough to achieve a major victory. This new end to the testing of cosmetics and their ingredients on animals in India is a historic victory for PETA India and for animals, and we are proud to say that we share it with Lush and the compassionate MPs, companies and others who helped make it possible.
Read more interviews with Lush Prize winners