Some good news may be coming for animals: the Humane Cosmetics Act, introduced by Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) as "HR 4148." If passed, the Act would eliminate animal testing for cosmetics made or sold in the U.S. It would also make it illegal to sell or transport cosmetics across state lines if any part of that product has been manufactured by testing on animals after the ban is implemented. The bill has bipartisan support and recently Michael Grimm (R-NY) signed on as a co-sponsor, along with nearly 50 other members of Congress.
Animals -- most commonly rabbits and rats -- are used in acute toxicity tests where they are force-fed or forced to inhale massive doses of a chemical ingredient, and as a result will suffer severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, convulsions, paralysis, seizures or bleeding before death. Other tests include eye and skin corrosion tests, in which rabbits are fully restrained while chemical substances are dripped into their eyes or rubbed into their shaved skin, creating ulcers, scabs, swelling or blindness. These results are subjective at best and can only predict human reaction with approximately 65 percent accuracy in most cases.
Furthermore, these tests have been done already, for years -- and none of these cosmetic tests are required by law -- not by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and not by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) or any other law or regulatory body. Worse still, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) -- the federal law that regulates animal testing -- is poorly enforced, and doesn't address or provide any legal protection for most of the millions of animals tested on -- like rats, mice and birds.
So why are these cruel, unnecessary tests performed? It is likely that these tests are used by corporations to shield themselves from potential liability in the event they are sued. But even so, it is in the best interest for the industry itself to use alternatives to testing on animals because such tests are known to be unreliable, expensive, and time-consuming. More importantly, they cause tremendous and unnecessary suffering to sentient beings. Scientists have already developed alternatives that use human blood, cells or skin tissues, or advanced computer technology to test the safety of cosmetic products. Companies already using these alternative methods have cut costs, time, and cruelty. There are numerous, widely available brands that have never been tested on animals -- see ALDF's Cruelty-Free Consumer Guide.
As recently noted in Scientific American, the U.S. has been behind the times when it comes to preventing cruelty to animals in unnecessary laboratory testing. The European Union has banned cosmetic testing and even prohibits the marketing of cosmetic products tested on animals. In contrast, China requires such testing, and the U.S., while not requiring it, has not stepped up to ban it. Happily, that may finally change with the Humane Cosmetics Act.
Just this week, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health held a Briefing on The Humane Cosmetics Act (H.R. 4148): Advances and Challenges in Replacing Animal Use in Cosmetic Testing in Washington, D.C., in which experts discussed the scientific advances in non-animal testing for cosmetic safety, and the scientific, legal and policy challenges that remain, and how the Humane Cosmetics Act could impact other U.S. laws and policies.
The Humane Cosmetics Act would encourage the development of new testing methods that don't harm animals, and increase the use of advanced testing alternatives already available. Better, more reliable methods of testing mean eliminating testing on animals. Our need to produce safe products corresponds directly with our need to make those products humane, and both are possible under the law.
For more information, order ALDF's "Animal Testing and the Law" brochure.