Animal Testing for Cosmetics

animal cosmetic testing white mice

How to protect animals while also ensuring consumer safety?

A bill currently before the Legislative Yuan would prohibit the manufacture and sale in Taiwan of cosmetics products tested on animals when alternative methods are available. It would authorize the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) to designate the alternative methods specified for industry use.

If the law is passed, Taiwan would follow such other markets as the European Union, Norway, Israel, and India, all of which banned cosmetics tested on animals within the past few years. In addition, Korea recently announced a ban on animal testing for finished cosmetics products, with the intention to extend the ban to ingredients in the future.

In the absence of animal testing, say some prominent members of the industry, they would have serious concerns about their continued ability to guarantee safe products to consumers.

In recent years, intensive publicity campaigns by such organizations as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Cruelty Free International, and the Humane Society International have crusaded to end such testing, which often involves irritation or corrosion to the skin and eyes. Frequently the argument is used that while testing on animals by pharmaceutical companies may be acceptable in the interest of saving human lives, it is not justified merely to improve people’s appearance. The protests, often using photos of cuddly rabbits and cute white mice, have had an impact on public opinion, and many cosmetics companies have pledged to refrain from animal testing and have agreed to place certification logos on their products.

Animal testing is permitted in such cosmetics manufacturing centers as Japan, the United States, ASEAN, and China. Once Taiwan were to implement the proposed ban, it would lose the flexibility to import products from those areas.

Other members of the cosmetics industry, however, have had strong reservations about imposing an abrupt end to animal testing, stressing the continued need to assure the safety of cosmetics products and their ingredients before use by consumers. A key question is whether sufficiently effective alternative testing methods are in fact available. Opinion differs on this point, but some of the major manufacturers insist that while scientists around the world are working hard to develop effective alternative methods, so far the substitute methods do not achieve the same level of accuracy as animal testing, particularly for toxicity potentially leading to cancer. They wish to forestall a situation in which outside pressure might lead to the endorsement in Taiwan of alternative methods that may not be fully up to standard.

In the absence of animal testing, say some prominent members of the industry, they would have serious concerns about their continued ability to guarantee safe products to consumers. As a result, their suggestion is for the Legislative Yuan to postpone consideration of the bill until the proven effectiveness of alternative means has been confirmed.

Another factor deserving consideration is that animal testing is permitted in such cosmetics manufacturing centers as Japan, the United States, ASEAN, and China. Once Taiwan were to implement the proposed ban, it would lose the flexibility to import products from those areas.

If postponement of the bill is an impossibility, a longer grace period could be considered between promulgation of the law and the date of implementation. The proposed Taiwan legislation currently calls for a grace period of one year for finished products, two years for raw materials, and three years for the active ingredients in medicated cosmetics. An extension would give manufacturers more time to develop substitute testing methods and adjust their marketing and distribution.

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