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Soapbox: Humane Society International



Toward a global ban on cosmetic animal testing: The final chapter?


By Aviva Vetter

Aviva Vetter is a Campaign Manager for Humane Society International’s global #BeCrueltyFree campaign to end cosmetics animal testing and the sale of newly animal-tested cosmetics.

(December 2018)


Cruelty-free beauty is on its way to becoming mainstream globally, driven in large part by the #BeCrueltyFree campaign led by Humane Society International (HSI) and our partners globally, and in the United States by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund. Nearly 40 countries have already enacted laws banning animal testing for cosmetics, and our goal is to outlaw this practice in all major beauty markets worldwide within 5 years. We believe that consumers should be able to pick up a cosmetic product anywhere in the world and be confident that it is safe and free from animal cruelty.

Our #BeCrueltyFree campaign was instrumental in driving the European Union to become the world’s largest cruelty-free cosmetics market, and in securing similar victories in India, Norway, Taiwan, New Zealand, South Korea, Guatemala, seven states in Brazil and the U.S. state of California. Today we’re on the front lines of more than a dozen more legislative efforts in the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Japan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the ASEAN region of south-east Asia. In China, too – the last major market still to require animal testing for cosmetics – HSI is the only animal protection organization with a sustained in-country program, working hand in hand with cosmetics stakeholders to achieve swifter uptake of animal testing alternatives.

Despite this incredible momentum, an estimated half-a-million animals are still suffering and dying each year in laboratories around the world in cosmetics-related testing. Cruel 1940s-era eye and skin irritation experiments, in which a cosmetic product or ingredient is rubbed onto the shaved skin or dripped in the eyes of rabbits, are still common in some countries. Other common tests include skin allergy experiments using guinea pigs or mice, and force-feeding studies in rats that last weeks or months. These tests inflict considerable pain and distress, which can include swollen eyes, blistered skin, internal bleeding, organ damage, convulsions, and even death. Pain relief is seldom, if ever provided, and at the end of a test the animals are killed, normally by asphyxiation, neck-breaking or decapitation.

The road to a global ban on cruel cosmetics is made up of numerous individual milestones – including grassroots outreach to the general public and consumers, the media, scientists, educators, non-animal test method developers, government regulators, and companies across the spectrum from those that are already cruelty-free to the largest multinationals. All have an important role to play in shaping a more humane and compassionate future.

We’re working toward the de facto abolition of cosmetic animal testing and trade globally by 2023. This means focusing on the top 50 or so countries that are major players in the cosmetics sector – those that are home to large manufacturers of cosmetic products or speciality chemical ingredients – where bans on cosmetic animal testing and sales will have the most impact.

Our #BeCrueltyFree campaign is at the forefront of a dozen legislative efforts in key cosmetic markets, including the following:


HSI/Australia is leading final negotiations with the Ministry of Health and federal politicians to amend the country’s 2017 Industrial Chemicals Bill and associated regulations to achieve a robust ban on the use of new animal testing data for cosmetic introductions to Australia. These negotiations are bringing us closer to an agreement on language that would close loopholes in the government’s bill.


Our team in Brazil has been working both to amend a weak federal bill introduced in 2014 as well as secure state-level bans on cosmetic animal testing, to bring South America’s largest beauty market into line with the cruelty-free trend that is sweeping the globe. To date, we have been successful in securing testing bans in seven states, which together are home to more than 70% of Brazilian cosmetic manufacturers. Robust amendments to Federal Bill 70/2014 were unanimously endorsed in March 2017 by the Senate Commission on Science and Technology, and are currently awaiting a final vote before the full Senate. The bill will then enter a reconciliation process between the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, before final Presidential endorsement. 


The Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act, based on language developed by HSI/Canada, has reached the half-way mark in the Canadian political process, following unanimous endorsement in the Senate in June. It must now pass through three readings in the House of Commons and achieve royal assent in order to become law. Polling by our partner, Animal Alliance of Canada, revealed that 81% of Canadians support a federal ban on cosmetic animal testing, and more than 750,000 Canadians have signed petitions to this effect.


Federal Bill 10514-11 was introduced in 2016 by the bipartisan group Parliamentarians for Animal Dignity in Chile (PARDA) based on language developed by our Chilean partner group, ONG Te Protejo. We are in active discussion with members of the Health Commission of the Deputies Chamber to expedite the bill toward adoption into law.

Sri Lanka

We are currently working with the Sri Lankan government to introduce the country’s first comprehensive animal welfare legislation, including a ban on cosmetic animal testing and trade.

South Africa

HSI/Africa team in South Africa, in collaboration with other national organizations, is actively working to support an Animal Protection Amendment bill, introduced in 2017, that includes a prohibition on cosmetic animal testing and trade.

United States

The Humane Cosmetics Act, developed in 2015 in close collaboration between Representative Jim Moran and the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund, includes robust testing and sales restrictions consistent with the EU precedent. The bill (HR 2790) was reintroduced in 2017 by a bipartisan group of legislators and has already garnered 169 additional cosponsors and endorsements by more than 250 beauty brands. A bill to ban cosmetic animal testing and trade in California, the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act, was enacted just last month. Similar bills are currently in development through our US-based extensive network of state directors.


Similar legislation is in development in Mexico as well as throughout the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), led by HSI offices in those countries.





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