Phasing Out Animal-Tested Cosmetics in North America Makes Good Sense

Cruelty Free International along with its European partners, led the 20 year effort that ultimately achieved the 2013 European Union ban on imports of cosmetic products and ingredients tested on animals. Since then, Cruelty Free International has been working with governments around the world to phase out animal testing for cosmetics in favor of modern alternatives. In the course of this work a frequently asked question is how harmonizing regulations with the EU will impact trade and small business.

In North America these questions have been raised in both Canada and the United States as each country contemplates what such a change would mean for their local industry as well as each other and major trading partners.

Cruelty Free International believes that creating an economic and trade level playing field can only be good for cosmetics businesses and their customers wherever they may be. Here’s why.

US and Canadian companies must already comply with a no-new-animal testing requirement to sell cosmetics products in the largest cosmetics market – the European Union, as well as the European states that make up the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) - Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. Most US cosmetic companies that sell products in Canada (up to 85% of Canadian cosmetics are imported from the US) also sell products in the European Union and as such, complying with a no-new-animal testing requirement in Canada should not be an issue for them. Likewise for any Canadian company hoping to sell cosmetics in the US.

The EU marketing ban has not damaged US or Canadian exports of cosmetics to the European Union and the EFTA. For example, between 2010 and 2016 when EU laws were changing to include testing and marketing bans, US cosmetics exports to the EU rose by 46% whilst rising by 15% to Canada over the same period (source: US Census Bureau).

In 2013, the EU was Canada’s second most important trading partner with trade worth $33.2 billion (source: European Commission). Like US companies, European companies also already comply with EU regulations so should be able to comply with harmonized regulations in Canada. Moreover, on 21st September 2017, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the EU came provisionally into force pending parliamentary ratifications. This is a new opportunity for both Canadian and European exporters – including those involved in cosmetics and toiletries – as tariffs are reduced and removed. Cosmetics products and their ingredients entering Canada from the EU will not have been subject to new animal testing. Likewise, Canadian cosmetics exported to the EU will have to abide by the EU Cosmetics Regulations on animal testing.

Harmonizing regulations with the EU and EFTA will benefit North American companies by preparing them for the requirements for trading in the EU and a rapidly growing number of countries around the world that no longer accept animal testing data for cosmetics safety assurance. Such a move could also create opportunities for North American companies to take advantage of the growing alternative testing market with its ramifications for more efficient and effective human-relevant science.

It is also worth pointing out that since the EU ban, the number of small and medium-sized companies working in cosmetics and toiletries in the EU has continued to grow. There are now 4,900 and growing (source: UK Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association - CTPA). The ban has also spurred growth in the alternatives testing market. In the EU there are now 33 scientific innovation facilities working on alternatives to animal testing – including in cosmetics (source: CTPA).

The In-Vitro Toxicology Testing Market is expected to reach USD 8.74 billion by 2022 from an estimated USD 6.34 billion in 2017, and the US is expected to hold the largest share of the global in-vitro toxicology testing market in 2017. Growth in this market is widely attributed to the growing adoption of alternative methods in the cosmetics industry (source: MedGadget)

Cruelty Free International campaigns have revealed that consumers around the world support a cruelty free cosmetics market place - and North America is no exception. Numerous polls show that North American consumers want cruelty free cosmetics and support laws that reflect their values and prohibit senseless cruelty to animals.

Indeed, European consumers (who overwhelming supported the bans) still have a wide variety of safe and effective cosmetics available to them, and the cosmetics industry in Europe has remained strong and continues to grow years after the ban.

Ending the sale of animal tested cosmetics in Canada and the United States would boost consumer confidence in the cosmetics market by assuring consumers that it is committed to meeting demand for safe and humane cosmetics. Indeed, when New Zealand passed its ban in 2015, the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Fragrance Association said that they did not need animal tests, adding, "There might be some perception that we are actually testing within New Zealand so it's actually in the best interests of the exporting industry that we have a ban."

So where do things currently stand in North America on this issue? Here’s the skinny.

In the US there are really two legislative opportunities to modernize US cosmetics policy with regard to animal testing.

The first and most straight forward is the Humane Cosmetics Act which would phase out animal testing for cosmetics in the United States within one year of enactment and would prohibit the sale of cosmetics tested on animals within three years of enactment. The bill was first introduced in March 2014 by Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) and then after his retirement the bill was re-introduced with bi-partisan support led by Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Don Beyer (D-VA) in 2015 and again in 2017. The bill HR 2790 now has 107 cosponsors.

A second option should be the Personal Care Products Safety Act (PCPSA) (S. 1113), reintroduced this year by Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME). The bill is aimed at updating The Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act of 1938 to provide more federal oversight of cosmetics. Many of the bill’s proposed changes to the Act closely mirror the cosmetics regulations of the European Union, but one key component is missing – the ban on animal tests. By leaving out language that would firmly shut the door on animal testing, the PCPSA is missing the opportunity to match global progress on this issue and leaving the door open for animal testing to take place. Companies and consumers who have been supportive of the Act should join Cruelty Free International in asking the bill sponsors to ensure that animals won’t be harmed for a new lipstick or shampoo.

In Canada, the Cruelty Free Cosmetics Act (S-214) by Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen (New Brunswick) would amend the Food and Drugs Act to prohibit cosmetics animal testing in Canada and prohibit the sale of cosmetics tested on animals anywhere in the world. On October 4th S-214 was accepted by the Senate Standing Committee Social Affairs, Science and Technology with an amendment that would phase in the bill’s provisions over four years. The bill now must return to the full Senate before proceeding to the House of Commons, and as is characteristic of private member bills it could take a very long time to proceed. But this recent movement is a welcome and promising step forward.

With the changing global market increasingly requiring non-animal safety tests and consumer desire for humane cosmetics showing no sign of retreating, updating US and Canadian laws to match the EU cosmetics animal testing laws really does make good sense.

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