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"Cruelty-Free" Lies Of The Cosmetic Industry

January 1, 2012


It's ludicrous that companies still find the need to torture animals by testing various cosmetic products on them. Companies know more and more people are opposed to this barbaric practice, so they use misleading packaging to suggest their products were not tested on animals. Take a look at our list of companies that don't test on animals, and read on to find out about the tactics the cosmetic industry uses to pass their products as cruelty free.

THE actress Kristin Bauer, of "True Blood" fame, has an annual ritual when she visits her family home in Racine, Wis.: She takes a black marker and scribbles on the sides of specific products and cosmetics, "Tested on animals."

"It's so simple for me: we shouldn't be torturing another living being for mascara when we don't have to," said Ms. Bauer, a vegetarian who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Abri van Straten, two dogs and two cats. "It seems so odd when you think of shaving cream and a bunny, or mascara and a guinea pig. We're not saving a life."

As a spokeswoman for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit health organization whose goals include promoting animal-free testing, Ms. Bauer has a mission: to get more people to use makeup and toiletries that have not been tested on rabbits, guinea pigs, mice or rats. And while "cruelty-free" has been a basic mantra of certain earthy lines like Aveda, the Body Shop and Kiss My Face, for decades, it's increasingly been taken up by new and glamorous proponents.

The models Josie Maran (josiemarancosmetics.com) and Christie Brinkley (christiebrinkleyskincare.com) and the designer Stella McCartney (Care by Stella McCartney) are among those who have started cosmetics lines developed without animal testing.

Companies like Clinique, Tarte and Almay have stopped the practice. Other lesser-known brands, like Pixi, Organic Male OM4 (a skin-care line for men) and Dr.'s Remedy, an all-natural nail polish, never started it.

"It was important for us to know that there would not be any animals harmed in the development or testing of our product," said the co-founder of Dr.'s Remedy, Adam Cirlincione, a podiatrist in New York.

Consumers seem to agree, said Nancy Beck, a former science and policy adviser for the physicians' group, who conducted a report on the topic while working there. "Part of it is awareness about the issue in general," said Dr. Beck, who has a doctorate in microbiology and immunology. "Science has evolved, and we have the technology now that maybe we didn't have 30 or 40 years ago to do safety assessments without using animals. So having the methods in place, and companies bothering to take the time and making the investment into developing new methods, has a lot to do with it, too."

But while some companies have stopped testing on animals, getting them to do so hasn't been easy. "It's hard to get them to talk to you," Dr, Beck said. "You start out by writing a letter: �We'd love to talk to you about your approach to testing and could we meet?' Usually you don't hear back."

On March 11, 2009, the European Union banned cosmetics and personal-products companies from testing their products on animals for things like skin irritancy, sensitivity to light and acute toxicity. The decision also banned the import of cosmetics containing ingredients that have been animal-tested in this way. By March 11, 2013, companies will be forbidden from further tests designed to establish longer-term toxicity.

But no such laws exist in the United States. The closest is the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, which was introduced on June 24, 2011, (it has yet to be adopted) and encourages, among other things, the development of alternatives to animal testing.

That isn't sufficient for Vicki Katrinak, the administrator for the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, a consortium of animal protection groups (including the Humane Society of the United States, the Doris Day Animal League and the American Anti-Vivisection Society) in Jenkintown, Pa. "We are worried that without a full ban being incorporated into the language of that bill, there will be more testing," she said.

What's more, the "cruelty-free" label that some personal-care products and cosmetics companies have adopted doesn't have a universally agreed-upon meaning. "The F.D.A.says on its Web site that companies can make any claim about their animal testing policies because there is no regulated definition of what is cruelty-free," Ms. Katrinak said.

Companies may say their products are "cruelty-free" or "not tested on animals," she said, but their claims might refer only to the finished product, and not to specific ingredients (the bulk of animal testing happens on the ingredient level). Or they hire outside laboratories to do the testing for them.

Even "all-natural" claims are confusing. Michelle Larner, a makeup artist in New York, thought she was using only products not tested on animals because she favors lines aimed at customers with sensitive skin. But then she went to the Web site of the advocacy organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which lists companies that do and don't test on animals.

"I saw a few brands that fall into the �natural' range that I just assumed would be cruelty-free," she said. She was dismayed to discover that "everything I use, from mascara, toothpaste, deodorant and feminine products were on the list. Even my laundry cleaning products are on this �yes' list."

A majority of items made without animal testing are independent brands that are not readily available at chain drugstores, department stores or specialty stores, she added. It also would be easier "if the products had a disclaimer saying, �Yes, we test on animals,' " Ms. Larner said. "I would not buy it."

Some organizations have been trying to change that. PETA licenses its "cruelty-free bunny" logo.

Leaping Bunny, a program run by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, licenses a rabbit logo to companies the organization has certified as cruelty-free. It also provides consumers with a list of these companies.

So far, about a third of the 400 certified companies use the logo, said Ms. Katrinak, including Burt's Bees, Tom's of Maine, the Body Shop and Urban Decay. Not everyone, though, thinks that eliminating animal research entirely is feasible. "Most ingredients in cosmetic products were tested long ago, so very little testing is done nowadays," said Frankie Trull, president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research, which promotes humane and responsible animal research. But "in some cases, animal models are still a necessary part of ensuring ingredients will not cause harm to people."

Ms. Bauer, who favors Almay and bareFaced Mineral Cosmetics, is unmoved by this argument. She often checks PETA's Web site to see which products do and don't test on animals.

"It takes five minutes to go through this list," she said. "Sometimes the non-tested are more organic and natural. Sometimes they're even cheaper."

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