Philosophy of AR > Animal Testing - Index > Anti-Vivisection Index

Consumers Choose Wisely...
Alternatives to animal testing proven to work well
Kelly Bordin -- State/National Desk Writer

It is a breezy Saturday afternoon. You are doing laundry while using your favorite detergent, Tide. One of your roommates is slapping on Sure deodorant after his shower, while the other is preparing for her date by using Clearasil on her face. Her friend is testing out the latest color of auburn hair dye by Clairol.

What does this household have in common? They are using products which have been tested on animals before reaching supermarket shelves. Like most consumers, they are unaware that the majority of the cosmetic and household products they use on a day-to-day basis were first tested on animals.

The term "cosmetics" refers to personal care items including hair, skin, mouth, and nail products. Perfume, lipstick, eye shadow and blush, and cologne are also included in this category.

Household products include items such as laundry and dish detergent, cleansers, bleach, floor wax, furniture polish, air freshener, correction fluid, ink, and glue.

These products are often tested on a variety of animals. Fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals have all been used.

Animals are the most accurate way of testing products because they have hearts, brains, and other organs similar to humans. "There is a correlation between animal biology and human biology," said Judy Lugwig, consumer service representative of Proctor & Gamble.

Julia Salo, administrator of the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), told City on a Hill that while companies are not quick to inform the public of their product testing, their major concern is liability for safety. Salo says, "Currently, no testing is required under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it is recommended," she said.

The CCIC is an internationally recognized non-profit organization comprised of a number of animal protection organizations, including such groups as Doris Day Animal League and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The Doris Day Animal League is working towards creating a standing committee in Congress which would suggest alternatives to animal testing. Recent advances in technology allow companies to practice other methods of testing products. Cell cultures, chemical assays, literature searches, computer modeling, and human volunteer testing, are alternatives available to companies.

"Computer data bases are wonderful," said Barbara Rich, vice president of the National Association for Biomedical Research.

The cosmetic industry maintains a database with information on products already tested, allowing companies to refer to previous results rather than performing new experiments. Proctor & Gamble is one of the companies that releases all of its results from tests performed on animals to other companies through a computer database. This ensures the same tests are not repeated on animals.

But companies still continue to test new products on animals to ensure consumer safety. "As a last resort, animals still need to be used," said Lugwig of Proctor & Gamble.

Testing on animals is not agreed upon by all cosmetic and household product manufacturers because there are companies which have eliminated animal testing altogether, according to Salo, administrator of the CCIC. These companies have joined with the CCIC, demonstrating they do not test on animals. "About 85 companies in the states have signed onto the program, and about 175 companies have joined on the international level," Salo said.

These companies have agreed to adhere to the Corporate Standard of Compassion for Animals. The Corporate Standard was drawn up by a coalition of animal rights groups all over the world. Its purpose is to reduce the number of companies subjecting animals to tests for cosmetic and household items.

If a new product is made, the companies on the Corporate Standard list will not test on animals. Salo claims in vitro and skin patch testing methods can be used instead of animals.

The Corporate Standard dictates that not only must a company promise not to test products on animals before they hit the shelves, but companies also must show proof that their suppliers are not using ingredients tested on animals.

Companies that want to sign on to the Corporate Standard must submit written assurances to the CCIC from all of their suppliers and intermediary agents. The promise in writing ensures no animal testing has been conducted on the company's behalf.

Often companies do not know much about their suppliers, but according to Salo, many companies have started doing the extra work, as a result of the Corporate Standard list. "Companies want recognition. This means they have to do a little legwork," Salo said.

In 1996 when the Coalition began, four companies joined onto the Standard. Three years later, a total of 260 companies have joined from all over the world. The significant increase of companies that joined in only three years time represents a major increase in concern for animal rights.

The CCIC sends out a questionnaire to about 4,000 businesses each year inquiring about their policies and any other information needed to assess whether or not they can be a part of the Corporate Standard.

Every so often, a company distributes a press release claiming cruelty-free testing for a particular product already on the shelves, according to Salo. Unfortunately, the public is not shown the whole picture. First of all, the company has already used animals to test their product before it hit the shelves. Secondly, it will only continue to keep the product away from animals as long as a new product does not come out.

An example of this is the company Clairol. While Glenda Simmons, a representative of Clairol, claims the company has discontinued the practice of testing on animals in regards to shampoo, conditioners, and hairsprays, she also said "the only time testing comes up is when something new is introduced to the market regarding hair color. However, she said, "When it is, we get together with other companies, even our competitors, to minimize the animal testing done on the new product."

This still shows that some companies are trying to lessen the use of animals for cosmetic purposes. More importantly, companies are trying to achieve higher standards, even if they cannot achieve the Corporate Standard of the CCIC. Simmons said, "Clairol is definitely on the verge of eliminating animal testing all together." She views the company she works for as one which is almost completely removed from experimenting on animals.

Many companies understand consumer worries about animal rights. Proctor & Gamble has reduced the amount of animal testing done on their products from roughly 60 to 80 percent in the last 10 years, according to Lugwig, a representative of Proctor & Gamble.

Responding to the growing number of consumers conscious of animal rights, Proctor & Gamble has funded $900,000 to help develop a computerized human being at the University of California, San Diego, according to Lugwig of Proctor & Gamble. While Lugwig claims the project would nearly eliminate animal testing, she said," the efforts are long term."

Meanwhile, most consumers are unaware of what goes on in the labs. But according to Holly Hazard, executive director of the Doris Day Animal League, that will change. "The Corporate Standard will result in important changes for consumers trying to find out if any animal testing occurs, prior to marketing, for the products they buy and use," she said.

People are conflicted regarding similarities between humans and animals, and the effectiveness of testing on animals. Under the FDA, the Draize eye and skin irritancy test, a method of testing products by rubbing it into rabbits' eyes, is considered one of the most reliable methods available for evaluating the safety of a product.

But, according to Salo, this test is unreliable because rabbits do not have tear ducts, whereas humans do. When asked if humans are similar enough to animals in order for results from animal tests to be helpful, Salo said, "it is questionable. With plenty of results it is not really relevant," she said.

On March 31, 1998, internationally recognized cosmetic company, Mary Kay, Inc., signed on to the Corporate Standard of Compassion for Animals. "Mary Kay signing on to the Standard has been great," said Salo, administrator of the CCIC. "We're hoping they will be an example for other companies to follow."

By signing on to the Corporate Standard, Mary Kay, Inc. had agreed that it will not perform animal testing on its ingredients, formulations, or finished products. In addition, the company is not using any outside contractors which practice animal testing on Mary Kay, Inc.'s behalf.

Because the FDA does not require companies, whether it is the cosmetic companies themselves or their ingredient suppliers, to eliminate animal testing, many still practice it.

But many practice it knowing that consumers will not be pleased. A representative from Oral-B, which is owned by Gillette Company, located in Redwood City, California, said "We have not tested our products on animals for five years." The representative claimed all sources that say otherwise were false.

Salo, administrator of the CCIC, laughed, "That doesn't surprise me. No, they still test on animals," she said.

Other companies contacted regarding their testing procedures were defensive. While companies use animal testing as a means of testing products for safety, there are companies that have completely eliminated animal testing. Consumers wonder why some companies have completely removed the practice of using animals on products, while others have not. When asked why the government has not made animal testing illegal, Salo said, "We are moving towards that." Others claim companies have a responsibility to market safe products, and if animal testing is made illegal, the government may be responsible for people's safety.

But animal testing is illegal in Britain, according to Salo. It may be only a matter of time before other countries follow.

The rate of company awareness of the need to reduce the amount of animal testing is increasing. The gold standard, a reference to the continuous use of animals tested in the past, is being questioned. This is a reason why many companies have changed their testing procedures from testing on animals to using alternative methods.

"Alternative tests are excellent for reducing the number of animals used," said Lugwig of Proctor & Gamble. Even though some companies have not made the step towards eliminating all use of animals tested on their products, those that have show it can be done.

Consumers are making a difference in the way companies operate by purchasing cruelty-free cosmetic and household products. Simmons, representative of Clairol, admits that by responding to consumers, companies benefit. "We need to respond to public awareness," she said. "It is just good public relations."