It might surprise some to learn that cosmetics ingredients are still tested on hundreds of thousands of animals every year, despite a vast majority of consumers who are clamoring for cruelty-free products.
Well, California is the first state in the country to do something about this as the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act takes effect on Jan. 1.
In 2018, the Physicians Committee partnered with Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL) to co-sponsor the California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act. Following months of lobbying at the state Capitol and publicizing the bill, the Physicians Committee and SCIL saw the results of their hard work as the bill passed many legislative hurdles and became law. The law is one of several new laws around the country and the world that seek to shift the world of safety testing for cosmetics from live animals to human-based, high-science methods.
Shortly following its introduction, the two nonprofits released a star-studded video explaining how the bill would benefit animals and people. Moby, Alicia Silverstone, Genesis Butler, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Harley Quinn Smith, and more explain the physical pain endured by lab animals used in testing the safety of cosmetic ingredients and how modern, nonanimal testing methods offer a faster, more efficient, more accurate, and cruelty-free replacement.
Throughout 2018, the Physicians Committee and SCIL accompanied stars Maggie Q, John Salley, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Harley Quinn Smith, and Alicia Silverstone to lobby for the bill and speak at press conferences at the state Capitol in Sacramento. On social media, Sia, Emily Deschanel, Alyssa Milano, Kathy Freston, and more supported the Physicians Committee’s and SCIL’s efforts to move the bill forward at each step in the legislative process.
Many cruelty-free brands have operated for decades by using human-relevant testing methods, not once using an animal to test the safety of their ingredients. Indeed, the bill’s success owes much to the support of cruelty-free brands like LUSH Cosmetics, John Paul Mitchell Systems, and nearly 100 others that lent their names, logos, and expertise to educate legislators.
Since 2013, dozens of states and countries, including the European Union, India, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia, have enacted bans on the sale of cosmetics that have newly been tested on animals (products already on the market, where the testing has already been done, are still permitted for sale). Still more countries have laws banning cosmetic animal testing itself. In the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, newly-proposed bills aim to ban cosmetic animal testing and the sale of such products, capitalizing on progress in California and other states.
While all of these bills go a long way towards securing a cruelty-free cosmetics market, there are unavoidable exemptions for some products that prevent a total ban on the testing of all ingredients in cosmetics. This is because some ingredients used in cosmetics are used in other types of products, such as pharmaceuticals, cleaners, or other chemicals, and are required to be tested on animals by the agencies like the Food and Drug Administration or the European Chemicals Agency. Other cosmetic products are required to be tested by certain countries, like China.
Physicians Committee and SCIL lobbyists worked hard to close these loopholes in the California bill, but in order to get the bill through the legislature and signed by the government, some exemptions had to be made. Physicians Committee toxicologists continue to train regulators and eliminate animal testing requirements across sectors so that all products can be cruelty-free.
The law also requires that, even if animal testing is conducted for another required purpose, the company must still assess the safety of their cosmetics products using nonanimal methods. This helps encourage suppliers and laboratories around the country to move to nonanimal testing methods. We have heard from some scientists at ingredient supplying companies that this helps them advocate for avoiding animal testing as much as possible to their managers.
The new law in California sets a groundbreaking precedent for cruelty-free cosmetics and creates the largest cruelty-free cosmetics market in the United States. With limited exceptions, no new cosmetics ingredients will be tested on animals ever again. That’s something to celebrate!