Testing cosmetics on animals – closing the final loophole

030301a1This week has seen the completion of a total ban within the EU on the sale of cosmetics developed through animal testing.  It applies to all new cosmetics and their ingredients sold in the EU, even where the animal tests take place elsewhere in the world.

Labour MEPs have campaigned on the issue for many years, supporting the work of animal welfare organisations such as BUAV and PETA as well as celebrities like Joanna Lumley and Paul McCartney.

While the EU Cosmetics Directive passed in 2003 made it illegal to test cosmetic ingredients on animals within the EU, the law still allowed the sale of cosmetics which had undergone three specific animal tests still employed because there are still no alternatives.

There was concern that, under the previous European Commissioner, there might continue to be this “derogation,” whereby industry could apply for exemptions on a case-by-case basis if they could demonstrate that their cosmetic product provided “added value.”

However, a change of Commissioner has slammed the door on that option.  Pressure from MEPs brought a commitment from new Commissioner Tonio Borg at his scrutiny hearing to bring the full ban into force.

He’s stuck to his word, and Labour MEPs welcome this. We have consistently defended the current law as it stands and have heard no convincing reasons to allow derogations. We have thousands of cosmetic products on the market which are not tested on animals and companies have had years to adapt to these changes.

The EU’s animal testing ban was a deliberate and principled decision following many years of debate and negotiation. A consistent EU position will also send a strong signal to other countries like the USA and Japan who do not have similar legislation, and would force the cosmetics industry worldwide to choose between phasing out animal tests, or else losing access to its biggest market.

So there’s cause for celebration as the last loophole is closed.  I know how strongly many of my constituents feel about this and many other issues affecting animals.   People who’ve written and signed petitions over the years can be proud of the pressure they’ve brought to bear on Europe’s decision-makers.

And it once again shows the importance of being part of the EU.  Acting as the UK alone on this would have had minimal effect.  Acting with others in the world’s biggest trading bloc of 500 million consumers means we have been able to make a huge improvement to animal welfare globally.

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