PHILADELPHIA–Dermalogica on September 18, 2012 followed Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and L’Oreal in losing “cruelty free” certification entitling the company to use the Leaping Bunny logo on their products.
“Dermalogica has had products approved for sale in the People’s Republic of China, which undoubtedly makes the company a party to animal testing,” explained the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics in a prepared statement.
“Companies selling cosmetic and personal care products in China are required under new, specific guidelines to test, or be a party to testing of, finished cosmetic products and/or ingredients on animals.”
“They were monitoring their supply chain to guard against animal testing, but not their distribution system,” elaborated CCIC chair Sue Leary, who also heads the American Anti-Vivisection Society.
Formed in 1996, the seven-member CCIC manages the Leaping Bunny program in the U.S. and Canada, in partnership with the 19-member European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, formed in 1990. The ECEAE founded the Leaping Bunny program and manages it in the European Union.
The Leaping Bunny secretariats are the American Anti-Vivisection Society in the U.S. and Canada, and the British Union Against Vivisection in Europe.
Reducing, refining, and replacing a previously bewildering variety of “cruelty free” product certifications, the Leaping Bunny program enforces “a strict no animal testing standard,” according to program literature, which requires that “All Leaping Bunny companies must be open to independent audits for verification,” and reviews company compliance every year.
Says Cruelty Free International chief executive Michelle Thew, who also heads the BUAV, ”Each company is regularly audited to ensure that no animal testing takes place throughout each company’s entire supply chain. Where companies no longer comply, the right to use the Leaping Bunny logo is retracted.”
The Leaping Bunny program has helped to consolidate progress toward abolition of animal testing in the U.S,, Canada, and Europe, but the continuing success of the program is challenged by corporate defections to enter the Chinese cosmetics and personal care products market. The 1.3 billion Chinese people, nearly 20% of the world’s population, spent 18% more on cosmetics and personal care products in 2011 than in 2010. Chinese sales of $16 billion already account for about 12% of the global cosmetics and personal care product volume, and are expected to keep rising to perhaps twice the present volume within five to 10 years. Manufacturers hoping to keep global market share can scarcely afford to stay out of China.
But China meanwhile is struggling to introduce and enforce consumer product safety standards to an economy growing faster than regulatory capacity. The world became aware of the magnitude of the problem in 2007, when Chinese-made pet food ingredients were found to have been spiked with the coal byproduct melamine to fool the tests used by U.S. and Canadian pet food mnufacturers to determine protein content. Embarrassed by the scandal, which according to the Banfield veterinary hospital chain killed as many as 7,000 pets in the U.S. alone, the Beijing government sentenced former State Food & Drug Administration chief Zheng Xiaoyu to death for taking bribes and dereliction of duty, while heading the agency from 1998 to 2005, and disciplined many other officials.
“The department in charge of inspecting export products said it had instructed its offices across China to increase inspections and supervision,” reported Daniel Martin, Beijing correspondent for Agence France-Presse. “Separately, China’s State Council, or cabinet, announced it had ordered more inspections of all plant and aquaculture products, and increased control of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, drugs, and animal feed. It also called for better systems of official responsibility over food safety, and for monitoring the movement of food products.”
Despite the crackdown, more pet deaths have been linked to Chinese-made pet food ingredients, prompting U.S. Food & Drug Administration warnings about chicken jerky treats in 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2012. Within China, adulterated milk has killed at least nine children and caused more than 300,000 to suffer from kidney disease. Fake rabies vaccines have caused at least three human deaths and killed many dogs. In August 2011 China was found to be the origin of “stamina booster” pills sold in South Korea that were allegedly made from aborted human fetuses.
Imposing an animal testing requirement is part of the Chinese effort to bring consumer product standards up to global norms. But, applied to cosmetics and personal care products, the Chinese requirement is long obsolete. Avon and Revlon began phasing out animal testing in 1980. Procter & Gamble–one of only two companies that still sell more cosmetics and personal care products worldwide than the volume that China buys– began by far the largest program to develop alternatives to animal testing in 1984. Avon, now the fifth largest maker of cosmetics and personal care products in the world, achieved zero animal testing in 1989, as did Mary Kay, the 16th largest manufacturer. Estee Lauder, the fourth largest, quit animal testing in 1990. As other major manufacturers followed, the EU in 2009 banned animal use in cosmetics testing, except in some long-running studies which must end by 2013.
The French cosmetic firm L’Oreal, the second biggest player in the industry, announced in March 2012 a partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “that, if everything goes according to plan, could eventually make testing cosmetics on animals obsolete,” reported Will Kane and Stephanie Baer of the San Francisco Chronicle. Funding of $1.2 million from L’Oreal “will allow the EPA to continue to calibrate a computer model that tests how toxic certain chemicals are,” Kane and Baer continued, paraphrasing David Dix, deputy director of the National Center for Computational Toxicology.
“Using state-of-the art methods,” said EPA regional administrator Jared Blumenfeld, ”we hope to show that products can be proven safe for the consumer without the use of animals.”
Explained Kane and Baer, ”The system, called ToxCast, uses complex mathematical algorithms and computer testing to determine if a particular product could cause harm to humans. But researchers must use earlier results of animal testing to confirm that the computer-aided testing is accurate, said EPA spokesperson Monica Linnenbrink. L’Oreal has agreed to provide the EPA with results of animal testing for 20 chemicals that can be used by EPA scientists to calibrate their animal-free method.”
Said L’Oreal scientific communication director Patricia Pineau, ”We have a set of data from years of annual tests.”
But while progress continued toward eliminating the last uses of animal testing by the cosmetics and personal care product industry, Avon and Mary Kay both surrendered Leaping Bunny certification in fall 2011. PETA also removed Estee Lauder from its list of cruelty-free companies.
Responded Mary Kay director of corporate communications, ”We do not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients, nor ask others to do so on our behalf, except when absolutely required by law. There is only one country where we operate where that is the case–China. We are working very closely with the Chinese government to demonstrate that alternative testing methods ensure safe and effective products.”
Estee Lauder, Mary Kay, and several other cosmetics and personal care product makers in April 2011 delivered three presentations to the Chinese State Food & Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies “to demonstrate and promote alternatives to animal experimentation,” according to Scripps Howard News Service reporter Lee Bowman.
“The Institute for In Vitro Sciences, of Gaithersburg, Maryland,” with financial support from Avon, Mary Kay, and PETA, “in January 2012 announced it was stepping up its international outreach and education program to drive regulatory change in those countries that still require animal testing for cosmetic and personal-care products,” continued Bowman. “And it hired Brian Jones, who had been head of developing animal alternatives at Mary Kay and has made frequent trips to China, to lead the initiative.”
The effort brought some results. Announced PETA on May 8, 2012, ”Chinese officials are in the final stages of approving the use of the country’s very first non-animal test method for cosmetics ingredients. The 3T3 Neutral Red Uptake Phototoxicity Assay, which tests chemicals for their potential toxicity when they come into contact with sunlight and is already in wide use in the U.S. and the European Union, is scheduled to be accepted in China by late summer.”
Meanwhile, reported Suzannah Hills of the Daily Mail, “Following discussion with L’Occitane, its Leaping Bunny certification was retracted in mid-December 2011.
“Some companies wish to bring ethical beauty to China,” said Thew. ”However, this is not currently possible until China changes its current policy which requires animal testing. I am disappointed that certain companies have fallen prey to the lure of the Chinese market and are letting animals pay the price,” Thew continued.
“Consumer pressure can make a difference. We certify over 400 companies around the world that refuse to allow animal testing into their products,” Thew reminded, “so there is plenty of choice for everyone who wishes to eliminate this cruel, unnecessary and outdated practice.”
Not every major cosmetics and personal care products maker has chosen the Chinese market over the Leaping Bunny.
“Hair-care giant John Paul Mitchell Systems pulled out of China after being informed that the company would have to pay for animal tests in order to continue selling its products there,” recalled Hills. “Chief executive Paul Mitchell and co-founder John Paul DeJoria put sales in China on hold last year and confirmed they will not sell products in that country in order to remain committed to the company’s cruelty-free policy.”
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