Animal testing: Clarifications
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Animal testing: Clarifications

Animal testing: Clarifications from after 11 March 2013

What the law says

Italian and European regulations governing cosmetics imposed a ban on animal testing for cosmetic purposes, to be implemented gradually. Specifically, the seventh amendment to the 2003 European regulation established:
an immediate ban on all animal testing for which proven and accepted alternative methods exist;
beginning in September 2004, it is forbidden to test finished cosmetic products on animals. In practice, testing of that sort had not been in use since the 1980s.
As of March 2009, no cosmetic ingredient can be tested on animals within the European Union.
As of March 2009, it is also forbidden to sell cosmetic products containing ingredients tested on animals outside of the European Community within the European Union, with the exception of those evaluated using repeated toxicity studies, reproductive toxicity and toxicokinetic studies, which are to be permitted until March 2013.
Before 11 March 2013, a new ingredient developed in the field of cosmetics could still be tested on animals, if such testing was performed in laboratories outside of the EU (because, since 2009, it has been forbidden to perform tests of cosmetic ingredients on animals in the EU).
These tests were extremely invasive and always lethal for the animals.
It consisted of: repeated toxicity studies (low doses of the test substances administered over the long term; these include “chronic toxicity” studies, which are carried out over the entire course of the animal’s lifetime); reproductive toxicity or teratogenicity studies (the ability of a substance to create birth defects in offspring when administered to a pregnant animal); toxicokinetic studies (how a substance reaches the cells and organs and causes possible biological damage).
The ban of 11 March gets rid of these tests, meaning that, in Europe, as of 11 March 2013, the sale of products containing ingredients developed especially for the cosmetics sector that have been tested on animals anywhere in the world is banned. Naturally, ingredients tested BEFORE that date are not banned and can still be used.

How this has influenced the development of alternative methods

At the time of writing, officially validated alternative methods for every type of test required to put a new ingredient on the market still do not exist. The cosmetics industry is therefore forced to work to develop new methods. Why? Because, if the information at their disposal regarding a given ingredient is deemed insufficient to guarantee consumer safety, then that ingredient will not be able to be used. It is therefore in their interest to develop new methods and have them validated, so as to be able to use them to put new ingredients onto the market.
The ban is therefore essential as a way to force the industry to develop alternative methods.
But it doesn’t end there, because the same tests that are performed in the cosmetics field are used in every other field as well. Thus, once a method that does not require animal testing has been validated for the cosmetics industry, it will perforce be used in every other sector as well, and this will apply to toxicity tests for all chemical substances, including in the pharmaceuticals field. Every time an alternative method is developed for “cosmetics testing”, this has repercussions on the ENTIRE toxicity testing field and therefore will help to save numerous animals around the world. This is a MONUMENTAL and extremely important achievement.

How it impacts other fields and other countries

A fundamental factor in the battle against animal testing being employed for tests that are compulsory under the law is this: if it has been possible to ban animal testing for products that people use every day for their entire lives, that come into contact with their skin, then there is all the more reason to believe that we can ban animal testing for every other type of product, as well. The ban in the cosmetics field therefore sets an important precedent for other sectors, as well.
Furthermore, the European Commission itself issued a communication reaffirming that which we have always maintained in recent years: “Past experience demonstrates clearly that animal testing provisions in the cosmetics legislation have been a key accelerator in relation to the development of alternative methods and have sent a strong signal far beyond the cosmetics sector and beyond Europe. Methods developed in the cosmetics sector, such as reconstructed human skin models, are now used in other sectors as well and the interest in alternative methods for cosmetics has grown in many countries outside the Union”.

This fact is even more important than the results that have been achieved.

For now, Europe stands alone. However, having cleared this first regulatory hurdle, “cruelty-free” will now be able to spread much more easily to other nations, because it will not make economic sense for large cosmetics companies to have to have two different product lines: one for Europe and one for the rest of the world.

What has not been achieved

Now that we have examined all of the positive consequences of the ban, it is necessary to explain also what this directive has NOT made possible, so as to have clear ideas on how, as consumers, we should behave.

Cleaning products are not included

Given that both companies that produce cosmetics and companies that produces cleaning products (often the same companies produce both) have always been included in the lists of cruelty-free companies published to date, one could be misled into believing that the ban applies to cleaning products as well. Not so. The ban does NOT apply to cleaning products, so we still have to refer to the lists of companies that have signed up to the International Cruelty-Free Standard.

Can we be sure that ingredients created after 2013 will never be used in cosmetics sold in the EU?

Unfortunately, no, and that is something that the Commission has explicitly stated: it is true that a total ban now exists on animal testing of ingredients, applicable to all animal testing, wherever in the world it is carried out, BUT this is only true if the ingredients were created specifically for use in a cosmetic. Thus, if an ingredient is created to be used in another, non-cosmetic product, and is tested for that use, then that same ingredient could also be used in a cosmetic product, even if tested after March 2013, because those tests were carried out for other purposes.
In other words, if a new substance is created to be used as a food additive, in a paint, in a cleaning product or pharmaceutical product, etc., then that substance, as we know, can still be tested on animals. Well, then, that substance will also be allowed to be used in cosmetics, because it will not have been tested specifically for cosmetics, but for other purposes. In other words, the ban does not cover this specific case, unfortunately.
This specific aspect of the ban could be subject to regulation on the part of each individual EU Member State, but we believe it is unlikely that a single nation would enact more restrictive regulation, given that the sector in question is one involving international trade.

What happens with companies that market their products around the world?

There is one more final element: a company that produces and sells its products all over the world definitely cannot test the new ingredients it develops on animals if it wishes to sell its products in Europe, but it would have no problem whatsoever testing them on animals if it intends to sell those products in other nations.
For instance, if a company decides to sell in China, then even the finished product will be tested on animals.
Therefore, if, as consumers, we wish to avoid supporting companies that still test on animals, even if only for other markets, then we must avoid their products, and the only way to do that is to choose for our purchases only those companies that have signed up to the International Cruelty-Free Standard.


As stated in the introduction, the enactment of this ban marks a huge step forward, one that will save animals from testing for the cosmetics field and, as a consequence, in many other sectors and many other parts of the world as well, which will be a huge help for the battle being fought outside of Europe (to obtain the same results) and in the field of other sorts of toxicity studies.
However, if, as consumers, we wish to avoid providing any sort of support, through our purchases, to companies that continue to use ingredients tested after March 2013, then we must, for the reasons provided above, purchase products only from those companies that have signed up for the International Cruelty-Free Standard.
For the Italian market, these are listed on the VIVO website:
“Cruelty-free” companies: which they are and where to find their products:
Naturally, Naturaequa, which always attempts to be clear and transparent in its choices, is also featured in this list.

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