Is Cosmetic Testing on Animals Cruel?

In the U.S., the question as to whether cosmetic testing on animals is cruel tends to pit the cosmetic industry against animal protection advocates. 

Animal Testing Methods

In most cases, testing on animals is done to determine if a product is harmful to human beings. Cosmetic products are tested for their toxicity levels, as well as for their potential to cause skin irritations or allergic reactions. 

Individual chemicals (ingredients), prototype products and finished products are all tested for reactions. These compounds are applied to the skin, and then the animal is monitored for possible reaction. Chemicals may also be placed in the mouth, nose and eyes. 

Some animals are injected with cosmetic products, such as dermal fillers. The cosmetic industry relies on animal testing to ensure the product is safe and complies with regulatory standards.

The strength and toxicity of many untested chemicals remains unknown, until they are tested on animals. Animal activists claim this is unnecessary and cruel treatment, because many animals are subjected to trial and error methods, which often include repeated exposure to corrosive or caustic substances. 

However, the cosmetic industry cites that the properties and amounts of some chemicals can only be known if they are allowed to continue animal testing, because regulations prohibit them from testing on human subjects. 

The cosmetic industry defends their use of animal subjects, because test animals are bred by companies that specialize in the sale of animal subjects. Most are small animals, such as mice, rabbits and rats. They are housed, fed and cared for by the research staff. 

Advocates for the protection of animals point out that test subjects live in small cages from the time of birth until death. They also point out that some animals may not receive proper medical care and are euthanized instead. According to activists, animals undergo unnecessary pain, discomfort and sometimes death, all in the name of beauty. 

Cosmetic Industry, Law and Regulations

More and more cosmetic companies are opting out of animal testing. Those that have not discontinued animal testing cite that government regulations force them to continue, because they are not always permitted to use human testing volunteers. 

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval is not necessary in many cases. Cosmetics that are not used in medical treatments are generally exempt from testing. Many companies producing soaps, lotion, shampoos and other similar products are opting out of the animal testing. Products that injected and those containing biologicals and chemicals regulated by the FDA are subject to testing. 

The testing of cosmetics on animals is prohibited in many European countries. In addition, the European Union currently bans the sale of many cosmetics tested on animals. Some European cosmetic firms have filed lawsuits concerning the ban, but the European Union is still working to prohibit the sale of all animal tested products. 

Most European countries do have a provision to the ban, if the product contains medical compounds. Cosmetics that have demonstrated medicinal value may be tested on animal subjects. 

Animal activists and groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) do not tolerate animal testing in any circumstance. According to them, cruelty should not be tolerated for the sake of beauty.