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Killing them softly with your face
STORY BY COURTNEY BLOK AND NICOLE CALHAU
Do you know the story behind the makeup you applied to your face today?
According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), cruel tests are
forced on millions of animals every year in the cosmetic industry. PETA says
hundreds of thousands of those animals die as a result.
The organization is urging concerned consumers to stop using cosmetic brands
that test on animals and push for the Canadian Parliament to end cruelty towards
Animal testing has been around for centuries and Canada is one of many countries
that has not passed laws to permanently end the practice.
Every day, animals are stripped from their natural environments and placed in a
lab. There, they can be forced to inhale toxic fumes, have holes drilled in
their skulls, and be immobilized in restraint devices.
"They are confined to barren cages, socially isolated, and psychologically
traumatized," said Marissa Price, PETA's Colleges Campaign and Outreach
Assistant in the United States. "Animals who are used in experiments are treated
like nothing more than disposable laboratory equipment."
Animal testing -- which some clearly believe is a barbaric practice -- has been
around for hundreds of years. The group Animal Justice says mutilations have
occurred in the name of research, science -- and even curiosity.
By the 1840s, animal testing had become routine. Scientists of that era would
use domestic pets or wild animals to aid in cosmetic and medical research,
according to Animal Justice.
Now, however, organizations such as The Canadian Council on Animal Care
(CCAC), and PETA ensure the issue is on the public radar.
Yet while more people are aware of animal testing, it continues to grow.
"Around the year 2000 about 2 million animals were used for study and research
purposes," says Dr. Louise Dejardins, CCAC's executive director." Now if you
look at the data today, the number is up to 3 million."
According to Dejardins, funding for animal research and training during that
same period has gone from around $286 million to $1 billion, possibly more. Any
CCAC-certified institution in Canada study on these animals for a variety of
scientific purposes for medical and clinical studies.
The Drug and Food Act in Canada was revised in 1985. And while it covers
cosmetic regulations such as packaging and labelling -- it does not include
legislation to protect animals from testing.
Many companies continue animal testing because countries have regulations that
require it to be done to ensure the product is safe for humans. Canada's
regulations neither ban it nor force it.
"We must recognize that animals are not tools or inanimate objects. They have
families and feelings and needs," said Amanda Nordstorm, company liaison for
PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies program.
Many consumers still remain clueless about what how their favourite makeup
brands make it to the shelf.
"I think we diminish ourselves when we diminish animals, in a moral or even
philosophical sense," said Liz White, founding director of Animal Alliance of
Canada. "You can maybe go through life blissfully ignorant, but when you see
what happens to these animals and the fact that you consider to continue using
these products after that, you would have to be a pretty insensitive person."
A simple search of the products you use could change the life of an innocent
animal. Even though a product might have labels that show "tested without
animals" or even "cruelty free" that doesn't necessarily mean that every
ingredient used to make the final product has not been tested on animals.
So whenever you're buying a cosmetic product, a simple search of every
ingredient used could help retailers see the effects of animal testing.
PETA does has a site that can be used to research any cosmetic product in your
"Some consumers don't know or understand how animals suffer during these
excruciating and deadly tests. These consumers might unknowingly support animal
suffering by buying products from companies that kill animals for their
products." said Nordstorm. "We urge all consumers to educate themselves on this
Some companies choose to continue animal testing because it can be a cheaper
route to obtain product sales in more global markets.
"Through habit or ignorance, some unscrupulous companies still choose to subject
animals to misery in cruel product tests in countries that have not yet banned
tests on animals for cosmetics," said Nordstorm.
Nielsen recently conducted a survey on the use of cruelty-free and natural
products. Just over half of respondents said "all natural" is very or moderately
important to them, and 46 per cent said they are willing to pay more for all
"I am strongly opposed to the cosmetic industry and any other industry testing
on animals," said Jess Peters, a Visual Merchandising student at Sheridan
"There is no reason for me to participate in anything hurting animals in
general. Especially, not when there is a solution to this problem that is so
glaringly obvious. The method of testing anything on animals is so outdated."
Instead of using animals there are many different alternatives.
"Cutting-edge non-animal research methods are available and have been shown time
and again to be more accurate than crude animal experiments," says Price.
There is also advanced computer-modelling techniques and studies that can use
human volunteers. Human volunteers provide skin patch tests so scientists can
replace animal-based skin irritation studies.
However, new ethical issues would arise if Canada implemented an animal testing
"The risk to the human life would increase, it's always about a balance of
what's the best thing to do. There's no way to ethically be testing on humans,"
Choices that consumers make do matter -- even if that may not be immediately
"Change takes time," said White.