30 Years Ago, PETA Exposed Cosmetics Testing—Look How Much Has Changed

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5 min read

In 1988, PETA conducted an eyewitness investigation into animal-testing laboratory Biosearch. The horrific video footage showed that animals suffered and died in places that few people ever saw during tests for cosmetics and household products. Outraged consumers demanded change. And now, just 30 years later, we can see the monumental progress that we’ve made.

Cosmetics testing on animals has all but ended in the U.S. and is illegal in many countries around the world (including the 28 member nations of the European Union as well as Israel, India, Norway, New Zealand, Turkey, and Switzerland). Many other countries are now considering bills that would ban the tests. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous companies have chosen to sell their products in China, where tests on animals are still required for all imported cosmetics, so China has become the new battleground in the fight to end animal cosmetics testing.

Through PETA campaigns and consumer pressure, we’ve gone from just nine cruelty-free companies in 1987 to more than 3,600 today in our Beauty Without Bunnies cruelty-free database. Our program has become the international gold standard for cruelty-free certification, and we continue to add more companies every day.

We’ve also raised consumer awareness of this issue, which in turn has increased the demand for cruelty-free products—so much so that the industry trend is now solidly moving away from tests on animals. Together, we’ve prevented millions of animals from enduring painful and deadly experiments all over the world.

How It All Started

“Once you’ve been here a few days, you lose respect for all living things. Torturing animals is the name of the game.”

—Biosearch employee

The PETA eyewitness got a job at Biosearch’s Philadelphia laboratory in the fall of 1988. She documented pervasive cruelty, including that experimenters kept animals in filthy, feces-ridden cages; denied them adequate food; deprived them of water for days at a time; denied them necessary medical care and painkillers; and tormented them by pouring chemicals into their eyes, rubbing them into their skin, injecting them into their bodies, and forcing them down their throats.

Staff dripped  insecticides, colognes, septic tank cleaner, and more into rabbits’ eyes and then observed the extent of the damage over the course of three to 21 days. They admitted that the tests were not required by law.

Experimenters repeatedly rubbed caustic chemicals onto guinea pigs’ skin until it ate the skin away. They put rabbits through a similar ordeal; the corrosive chemicals burned away several layers of skin, causing them to scream in pain. The compound that was being tested had been in use for years and was already known to be corrosive.

Mice were drowned in bottles of cooking oil. Workers injected makeup compounds into the backs of others before taping them down onto a board, standing the boards up vertically, and placing them in front of a high-intensity sun simulator. Half the animals died in the intense heat.

Rabbits’ ears were cut off while they were still alive, and blood poured from the wounds.

Rats were locked inside tiny metal boxes that were pumped full of noxious chemicals, which they were forced to breathe. Their lungs filled with fluid and they slowly drowned or suffocated while having to see the animals imprisoned next to them die, too. Experimenters admitted that no humans would ever be in a situation in which they would inhale that much of the chemical.

Other rats were force-fed an insecticide and left convulsing for at least 14 hours while laboratory staff went home.

During the yearlong investigation, PETA uncovered more than 100 violations of federal and state laws. We turned our findings over to law-enforcement agencies and gave them to Congress, and we released our investigation video publicly. The ensuing outcry against animal testing has lasted for three decades and resulted in countless victories for animals.

How We’ll Win the War on Animal Testing

PETA has continued conducting eyewitness investigations into laboratories, exposing atrocities, ensuring that cruelty charges are filed against offenders, and seeing tests ended and laboratories shut down. And we continue to negotiate with companies—launching campaigns against them if necessary—in order to persuade them to end tests on animals and earn our cruelty-free certification.

A large part of PETA’s success depends on our more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide, who urge companies to stop testing on animals and who vote with their dollars for cruelty-free products.

For help shopping cruelty-free, please continue using our online searchable global database of companies that do and that don’t test on animals. And please continue to join PETA in telling cruel companies that you won’t buy while animals die.

Together, we will end tests on animals for cosmetics and other products.

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