Animal testing is an indisputably controversial practice, and yet one that has until recently been somewhat accepted as part of our society. Despite recent shifts towards more regulated and cruelty-free standards in animal testing and welfare, particularly in cosmetics, America notably remains behind the curve. In many countries, including Norway, India and the EU members, the sale of cosmetics that have been tested on animals is now banned. The EU in particular has played a crucial role in the battle against animal testing, as it creates a significant economic disadvantage to companies employing this practice. However, China’s requirement of animal testing for imported cosmetics creates a safe and lucrative platform for the continuation of cruel and inhumane treatment of animals. Recently, the CFDA has lifted this policy for certain cosmetics which is a huge step towards the eventual eradication of the practice.
The ethics involved in animal welfare when it comes to testing are convoluted and unclear, with common practices consisting of irritation, toxicity and lethal dose tests, and those animals who survive are usually subjected to death without any form of pain relief. The data are shocking, and yet are made even more so by the fact that it is not required by US law. What’s more, animal testing is not as effective as we may have been led to believe, with over ninety-five percent of human trials failing despite being successful in pre-clinical trials.
The discontinuation of animal testing in the U.S. would be beneficial in creating a level playing field for cosmetic companies, removing any advantage of animal testing. Since the ban was imposed by the E.U., exports of cosmetics by America to member countries have increased by almost fifty percent between 2010 and 2016, and the number of small to medium sized companies which are cruelty free have continued to grow. This shows that animal testing is not necessarily a requirement for success.
Much research has been conducted in finding alternative ways to test products. There are now thirty-three facilities working on finding alternatives, with the alternative testing market expected to reach $8.74 billion USD internationally by 2022. Cosmetic company Lush holds an annual Lush Prize Gala during which money is awarded to scientists investigating alternative ways of testing. As science continues to develop, countries and organisations continue to impose bans and demand for cruelty-free products increases, an end to animal testing in cosmetics is beginning to look possible.
Unfortunately, as with many other political and social issues, one thing poses a threat to all this progress; Trump. A meagre two weeks into his presidency, inspection reports related to the Animal Welfare Act, the only federal law regulating the treatment of animals in America, were deleted intentionally. In the reports, violations by over nine thousand facilities were identified, ranging from pet stores to laboratories. Further to this, Trump received funding from some of the most notorious animal testers, namely Dow Chemical and biomedical researchers such as Pfizer and Amgen. While it is not explicit that these payments were insincere, it is not a huge leap to conclude they may have expected certain favours in return.
America, as we all know, is one of the most powerful and influential countries and as such I believe has certain responsibilities. Instead of remaining stuck in its ways, the US should be at the forefront of societal progression, not holding it back. While the actions of Trump thus far have been of relatively low impact to animal welfare, it is a bad indication of what may come. The future, however, could be bright. The Humane Cosmetics Act has gained support, which would see an end to animal testing in the US. The end of this practice may come due the incentive of cutting government funding, as the tax payer is responsible for footing the bill. While I would prefer the cessation to be due to more ethical reasons, as long as America steps up to the plate we can all be grateful.