Beauty Without Pain?: Testing on Animals in the United States and United Kingdom

Tanja Vucetic

Every day, millions of cosmetics and personal care products such as makeup, shampoos, deodorants, and moisturizers are used by millions of people.[i]  In fact, the cosmetic/beauty industry  garnered over sixty-two billion dollars in 2016 in the United States alone.[ii]  Before these products can enter the market stream, they are tested to ensure their safety.  Most of the time, the testing is done on animals.[iii]  In the United States alone, more than one hundred million animals are used for a variety of testing each year,[iv] and between one hundred thousand and two hundred thousand just for cosmetics.[v]  Animals such as mice, rats, hamsters, frogs, and even dogs are used in drug, chemical, and cosmetic testing as well as medical training labs and highschool biology classes.[vi]   However, all the testing comes at a cost in the form of the animal lives that are sacrificed for human health and benefit.  When testing cosmetics, animals are forced to endure experiments such as

skin and eye irritation tests where chemicals are rubbed onto the shaved skin or dripped into the eyes of rabbits; repeated oral force-feeding studies lasting weeks or months to look for signs of general illness or specific health hazards, . . . and ‘lethal dose’ tests in which animals are forced to swallow massive amounts of a test chemical to determine the dose that causes death.[vii]

Tests like these subject thousands of animals to excruciating pain without any relief and cause symptoms such as “blindness, swollen eyes, sore bleeding skin, internal bleeding, organ damage, birth defects, convulsions, and death.”[viii]  The animals that do survive are most often killed at the end of the test.

            There is some federal protection for animals used in testing. Congress enacted The Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966, which later became known simply as the Animal Welfare Act (“AWA”).  From the time of its enactment until today, the AWA is the first and only federal law of its kind.  However, it is often misunderstood that the AWA prohibits animal testing.  Rather, the AWA sets the minimum standards for care and treatment that must be provided to certain animals that are bred or bought for commercial sale, to be used in research, or to be exhibited to the public.  While revolutionary for its time and still currently the only federal law of its kind, the AWA has failed to be effective because it excludes ninety five percent of the animals that are most commonly used:  mice, rats, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians.  This is the only federal law of its kind, and there are no federal laws regarding animal testing for cosmetics. However, California, New Jersey, and New York have each exacted laws that prohibit testing on animals for cosmetics.

            However, the U.K. has taken an a far stricter approach.  The U.K. has entirely banned testing on animals for cosmetics.  In fact, the U.K. has some of the strictest laws in the world.  In 1986, Parliament enacted the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which regulated the use of animals in experiments and testing.[ix]  In 2004, the EU issued a directive that prohibited testing finished cosmetic products on animals.  Since 2009, animal testing for ingredients has been banned as well as marketing any “cosmetic products containing ingredients which have been tested on animals.”[x]  For ingredients or products that required more complexity, the ban was extended to March 11, 2013.[xi]  Since then, no cosmetic products have been allowed to be marketed or sold in the U.K. if the finished product or any ingredient therein was tested on animals.
[i].               See  The U.S. Beauty and Cosmetics Market Expected to Exceed $62 Billion in 2016Cision: News (Jan. 26, 2016),
[ii].              Id.
[iii].             See discussion infra Part II, Section A.
[iv].             Experiments on Animals:  OverviewPeople Ethical Treatment Animals, (last visited July 12, 2017).
[v].               About Cosmetics Animal TestingHumane Soc’y Int’l, (last visited July 25, 2017).
[vi].             Experiments on Animals:  Overviewsupra note 4.
[vii].            See About Cosmetics Animal Testingsupra note 5.
[viii].           Id.

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