A glamorous woman with immaculate make-up stares down at you from a giant bill-board as you’re waiting at the platform for your train on your way home. ‘Max-factor’ is the brand, one that you’ve probably heard of before. But behind this beautiful face is a not so beautiful truth. In order to achieve such perfection, millions of animals have suffered an incomprehensible fate to create the perfect product. Max-factor is only one of hundreds of cosmetic companies that still use animal testing methods for their products; however to the delight of the ‘guinea-pig’ it’s a trend that’s slowly on its way out.
In 2003 The European Union set the wheels in motion by proposing a gradual phasing out of animal testing with the objective of implementing a complete ban throughout Europe by March 2013. In approach of the March deadline, debate over the cosmetic industry’s ability to find alternative testing methods has played an impeding role in the decision-making progress and may result in the ban being delayed for several more years.
A technical report made in 2011 was set forth to the European Parliament and Council by the Commission’s Scientific Committee and presented the view that alternative testing methods are unlikely to be ready to replace animal tests by 2013. The report said “that the complete ban on animal testing of cosmetic ingredients and products, will pose an “insurmountable obstacle” to the risk assessment of some cosmetic ingredients.”
Despite this, prospective Commissioner Tonio Borg remains adamant on proceeding with the implementation of the ban by the proposed deadline in March. “I believe that the ban should enter force as the Parliament and the Council have already decided,” he said. “If we do not do so, the industry will never try and find alternative means rather than animal-testing for cosmetics,” he added.
President of Cosmetics Europe, Fabio Franchina attacked Mr Borg’s position claiming his outlook is unrealistic. “Our industry commitment to ending animal testing is solid and widely recognised, and we continue to invest heavily into finding viable alternatives. The cosmetics industry has been the engine of progress in this area. Mr Borg’s perspective therefore does not reflect the complexity or the reality of the issue, and will not further the cause of global animal welfare; rather it will undermine it,” he said.
Despite the concerns of Cosmetics Europe and the findings of the report, Mr Borg has received support from the Associate Animal Welfare group and Humane Society International to proceed with the legislation. Neil Parish MP of the associate animal welfare group commended Mr Borg’s efforts and accused the cosmetics industry of deliberately delaying the development of alternative methods. “For too long the cosmetics industry has dragged its feet when it comes to developing alternatives to animal testing, and here they are again trying to stall legislation to improve the welfare of animals,” he said.
The Humane Society further backed Mr Borg’s position writing in a statement, “The Humane Society International fully endorses Mr Borg’s acknowledgement that the EU ban provides an incentive for industry to hasten development of alternative test methods.”
Michael Balls, a professor and former head of the commission’s European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods, also criticised the handling of the issue. “The whole thing is a way of looking for reasons for a delay. The EC is trying to make a delay look like a scientific issue,” he said.
The Commission has estimated that 8 million animals will be subject to testing for cosmetic products if the ban is not implemented by March next year. Animal Rights organisations such as PETA estimate that the number of animals that undergo lab testing may even exceed 50 million in the coming years. The question is, will the EU follow through with their promise or will they succumb to pressure from major stakeholders?