The reality of cosmetics testing on animals is a still a very real and very disconcerting one. While some progress has been made, millions of animals are still experimented upon all in the name of "human safety." But are these practices really keeping us safe? In addition to being an incredibly badass professional makeup artist, our friend Emily Elisabeth Keough has dedicated herself to animal rights activism and consumer education. We're thrilled that Emily has given her time to breakdown the myriad of issues surrounding animal testing and the cruelty free movement. Enjoy! Xoxo Alexis
The first time I experienced #beautybullshit was when I was thirteen years old. In the height of my post-punk teen angst, I had fallen in love with the perfect shade of crimson eyeliner to smudge across my eyes every day---a shade called "Gash" by Urban Decay cosmetics.
Though that symbolic shade of my teenage-hood has sadly been discontinued, it exposed me to a sick, cruel world that I had never imagined would exist; a world where docile, innocent creatures were systematically trapped, burned, poisoned, and tortured. If they survived this misery, they would be euthanized and have their lifeless bodies tossed in the trash. They would know nothing but fear, pain, suffering and agony. All in the name of human vanity. I remember scrolling through Urban Decay's website and reading about the horrific suffering implemented by cosmetic animal testing for the first time and immediately made the correlation with my own family pet, a chubby Labrador and Dalmatian mix named Rosa. At the time, colored rubber wristbands created by organizations to raise awareness had become extremely popular, and Urban Decay had created their own purple wristband stamped with their mantra against cosmetic animal testing---"How Could Anyone?" My purple wristband taught me a lot about activism before I even realized I was an activist. It was a conversation starter among my classmates, who were just as horrified as I was when I explained the meaning behind it.
Years later, the conversation continued well into my career as a professional makeup artist. Whether I was working with models or the every day woman, the dialogue was the same--they wanted to know what products I was using and why. Throughout these conversations I learned that consumers want to use quality products that are both healthy and ethical.
The reality of animal testing is not one we like to face. Many consumers will be delighted to see a cruelty free logo on their cosmetic products, but in this age of designer loyalty and bargain shopping, purchasing cruelty free products is not often a deciding factor...and that is the very reason why cosmetic animal testing still exists. This needs to change. It is for this reason that I've created the no bullshit, #truthbeauty guide on animal testing---grey areas, false claims, the #beautylies that companies feed you, and the reason why your voice is so important to ending cosmetic animal testing for good.
Beauty Lie #1: Animal testing leads to safer cosmetics for consumers.
Though animal testing may have once contributed to the European Union's database of over 20,000 cosmetic ingredients with safety reports, it has made no progression in the past fifty years. Tests include the Repeated Dose Toxicity test, in which rabbits or mice are force-fed or inhale an ingredient for 90 days and are then killed; Reproductive Toxicity test, in which a pregnant rabbit or rat is force-fed an ingredient and then killed along with her unborn babies; and the Skin Sensitization test, in which an ingredient is rubbed onto the skin of an animal and becomes more itchy and inflamed with each use. For Carcinogenicity tests, rats and rabbits are force-fed ingredients until they develop cancer, which can take years.
These tests with "successful" results on animals have very different results on humans. Even extremely low dosages of parabens in products are being linked to breast cancer in humans and nearly every person on the planet knows of at least one cosmetic product that causes an irritation on their skin. The reason why animal testing does not work for human products is pretty straightforward---because the testing is being done on animals instead of humans. To date, BUAV has spent over €238 million on researching and developing modern methods that are cruelty free and more relevant to humans. These methods have been found to predict human reactions more accurately than the traditional outdated animal tests. An example of this is the EPISKIN, a skin model using reconstituted human skin donated from cosmetic surgery which has shown to be more effective in measuring skin irritation than the outdated and cruel rabbit Draize test.
The very use of animal testing also begs an even bigger question: why are we even testing ingredients when there are over 20,000 ingredients that already have sufficient safety data reports? Why are we testing and using synthetic chemicals and petroleum based ingredients when there are natural, safe, effective alternatives that have been used in beauty regimes for thousands of years? The answer, quite simply, can all be tied back to money. Is animal testing being facilitated so consumers can have a broader range of "safe" products or so cosmetic companies can benefit from patenting the synthetic ingredients they fabricate? I'll let you decide.
Beauty Lie #2: Only rabbits and rats are used for animal testing.
While it is true that millions of mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits are killed every year for cosmetic animal testing, many consumers unfortunately do not have the same emotional attachment to those animals as we do the dogs and cats we keep as pets. This very reason is why research corporations work vigilantly to hide the fact that over 66,000 dogs and 21,000 cats are used in animal testing each year.
The favorite dog breed among lab researchers are Beagles, which make up the vast majority of dogs used in testing. Sadly, Beagles are not used in particular because they have similar biological features as humans but rather due to their extremely docile nature. They are bred to be companions of humans and therefore will gladly accept being force-fed, choked from toxic inhalation, blindness, pain and an entire life in a sterile, cold, artificial environment in hopes of receiving love and companionship from the humans that perform these acts on them. Obviously this happy ending is rarely ever met. Organizations like the Beagle Freedom Project were created to help expose this animal testing beauty lie and to show consumers that the very products they use daily are tested on the same pets they love at home.
Beauty Lie #3: If a product is labeled "Cruelty Free", that means it was not tested
Of course that is what a company would like you to believe. The truth is, since cruelty free shopping has become a larger trend in recent years, many companies are jumping on board for reasons that are more marketing oriented than ethical. Be aware of how a product is labeled, as different verbiage can hold very different meanings. Here is a basic breakdown:
"This final product has not been tested on animals" - This is the ultimate form of deception. Companies will print this on products to make the consumer think they are purchasing a cruelty free product, but the key word here is "final". What this phrase actually is saying is that the final product, as in the one you're holding in your hand, was not tested on an animal before you picked it up off the shelf to purchase. That means that every ingredient in the formula could have been (and likely was) tested on animals. It is very rare that "final products" are tested on animals---these usually are tested on human volunteers to list the results of clinical studies for marketing purposes. In other words, this phrase is a cop out and likely means that product was involved in animal testing at some point.
"This product has not been tested on animals" - Technically this phrase should indicate that the product is cruelty free. There is no regulation on using this phrase on products (much like how there is no regulation on labeling products as "natural" or "organic"), so its up to the company to be ethical and honest when using it. It could have similar meaning to the aforementioned phrase, in which the final product was not tested on animals but it does not indicate that all ingredients are derived from suppliers who do not test on animals.
Leaping Bunny logo - The Leaping Bunny program was created to differentiate companies which do not participate in animal testing. If this logo is featured on a product, it means The Leaping Bunny organization has certified that company based on their own standards, which include not using any ingredients from suppliers who test on animals. This logo is the most accurate way of determining a truly cruelty free product. Other organizations such as PETA have their own certifications for cruelty free products which is also used by cosmetic companies.
Other considerations - even if a company claims to be cruelty free, it can be owned by a parent company which is not (Ex. Burt's Bees claims to be cruelty free but its parent company, Clorox, is not). Additionally, any company that sells its products in China and / or Russia is NOT cruelty free as both countries mandate animal testing on all cosmetic products before allowing distribution. Yet another way companies use a grey area to deceive ethical consumers. An in-depth list of certified cruelty free products can be found here.
Beauty Lie #4: If a product is NOT labeled "Cruelty Free", it's likely that it could have been tested on animals.
If a product was not tested on animals, why not say so? Ignorance is bliss, and usually any product that omits labeling itself as cruelty free does so for a reason.
So how is this madness stopped? The answer is more simple than one may think: stop buying products that are tested on animals. The fact is, if the consumer wants something, companies will make it happen. We saw this come to fruition recently with the ongoing conversations about the toxicity of parabens and phthalates in cosmetic products leading to hundreds of large companies removing them from their formulations. Your money is power, so put your money where your mouth is.
If you want to see your favorite products go cruelty free, tell that company! With the interconnection of modern social media, its easier now than it ever was to write a company via email or better yet---to publicly ask them on their Facebook or Twitter accounts to stop testing on animals. The more a company sees its users refusing to support their products, the more they will pay attention.
There are several easily accessible tools that can help as well. You can pledge to go cruelty free via numerous organizations such as Cruelty Free International, The Human Society International, PETA, and The Beagle Freedom Project. These organizations are more than happy to forward your pledge to dissuade the thousands of companies that still facilitate animal testing. Furthermore, you can download the Cruelty Cutter app and scan any barcode on a product to find out whether its cruelty free.
Thankfully there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In 2013, animals and activists had their most successful breakthrough yet when the European Union passed a ban on cosmetic animal testing. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection spent 40 years and €238 million (approximately $280 million USD) on alternative testing methods to have the ban pass, but it meant that some of the largest cosmetic manufacturers in the world were now forced to omit animal testing. It is difficult to believe that the United States has not followed suit and still allows animal testing. In fact, even after 28 of the world's leading countries agreed to ban cosmetic animal testing, U.S. congress still shut down a bill proposing the same ban. Alas, the cruelty free crusade is not over.
In my humble opinion, animal testing is one of the biggest #beautylies of this industry. It's the very reason why I enrolled in a program to receive a Bachelor of Science Degree in Cosmetic Marketing---to make change happen in an industry I'm passionate about. Given that there are so many humane, more effective alternatives, hundreds of thousands of people fighting tirelessly against it for nearly a century, and over 30 countries banning it, it's crazy to believe the cruelty and misery of animal testing is still facilitated every day in the name of vanity. There is no need for it. These animals do not deserve this barbaric treatment, but they have no voice to stop it. The only voice they have is us---will you use it?