European Commission Backs Phaseout of Animal Use in Experiments and Chemical Tests but Ignores Citizens on Cosmetics

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5 min read

On July 25, the European Commission (EC) kick-started a plan to phase out animal testing for chemicals across the European Union (EU) but won’t protect the EU’s ban on animal testing for cosmetics. This decision ignores the popularity of the “Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics—Commit to a Europe Without Animal Testing” European citizens’ initiative (ECI), which compels the EC to consider legislation and was signed by over 1.2 million European citizens.

White rabbits in small laboratory cages

PETA U.K., Cruelty Free Europe, Eurogroup for Animals, the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, and Humane Society International/Europe, with the backing of beauty brands The Body Shop and Dove, launched the ECI in August 2021. PETA U.K. brought together a network of European nongovernmental organizations, marking the first time in history that this many European groups came together to help animals in laboratories. The ECI calls for the following:

  • A strengthened ban on animal testing for cosmetics ingredients in the EU
  • A transition to non-animal methods for chemical safety tests
  • A firm plan to phase out all experiments on animals

While PETA welcomes the commission’s move to eliminate animal testing for chemicals and supports its longer-term proposals to reduce the use of animals in research and education, we lament its decision to ignore citizens’ calls to uphold the ban on animal testing for cosmetics. PETA and conscientious consumers know that there are ethical and scientific ways to move beyond the use of animals in laboratories.

What Did the European Commission Say?

Positive commitments made by the commission in response to the ECI included the following:

  • The development of a roadmap to end all mandated tests on animals for industrial chemicals, pesticides, biocides, and human and veterinary medicines
  • The proposed creation of an expert scientific committee to provide advice on the development and uptake of non-animal approaches
  • Possible future actions by the European Research Area (ERA) to coordinate national policies to replace the use of animals in laboratories and speed up development and implementation of non-animal methods
  • The organization of one or more workshops with experts to determine future priority areas of research in order to accelerate the transition to animal-free science

First, the Good News: The End of Chemical Tests on Animals Is on the Horizon

Thankfully, the EC heeded PETA U.K.’s calls and will initiate a plan to end all tests on animals for industrial chemicals, pesticides, biocides, and human and veterinary medicines.

It will create a roadmap for expanding and accelerating the development, validation, and implementation of non-animal methods as well as a means to facilitate their uptake.

Going forward, PETA U.K. will call on the EC to ensure that progress is swift and that measures are taken to create an expert scientific committee on non-animal assessment approaches as quickly as possible.

The European Commission Will Explore Plans for an EU-Wide Action to Reduce Animal Use

Every year in the EU, approximately 8 million animals suffer in laboratories, including rabbits, mice, cats, and dogs. They’re infected with debilitating diseases, genetically manipulated, inflicted with brain damage through surgery, exposed to severe pain, and used in breeding programs designed to perpetuate cycles of suffering.

We welcome the news that the commission is exploring the development of an ERA policy action to reduce animal use in research and regulatory testing, which would mobilize relevant authorities and EU member states to work harder at accelerating the uptake of non-animal methods and positively affect the ultimate goal of ending all animal use. However, the actions proposed by the commission don’t account for the breadth of reform demanded by EU citizens via the ECI.

The EC must now propose meaningful changes to existing legislation and policies to set member states, regulators, and assessment bodies on the path to phasing out the use of animals in laboratories. Therefore, PETA U.K. is calling on all authorities to pursue the goals of the ECI.

The Bad News: The European Commission Failed to Protect and Strengthen the Ban on Animal Testing for Cosmetics

Nearly 10 years ago, PETA U.K. revealed that tests on animals were required by the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation in order to determine the safety of chemicals handled by industrial workers. Disturbingly, proposed updates to REACH indicate that animal testing for chemicals, including cosmetics, is set to surge over the coming years.

But rather than acting on the demands of EU citizens, the EC has failed to take immediate action to end the suffering of animals used in cosmetics tests. Instead, it’s opting to wait on the results of an ongoing court case, in which PETA U.K. is involved. This is not good enough, and we wholly condemn the commission’s inaction.

Outrageously, the EC has reiterated its position that cosmetics ingredients can be forced down the throats of animals under the REACH chemicals regulation and that the results of those tests can be relied upon to allow the sale of these goods on the EU market. Such a position has destroyed the EU cosmetics marketing ban, which is intended to ensure that only non-animal methods are used to assess the safety of cosmetics products and their ingredients.

The safety of these products and their ingredients can be—and already are—ensured using non-animal methods. Modern and scientifically superior animal-free test methods should be used to protect the health and well-being of consumers, workers, and the environment.

Both REACH and the EU Cosmetics Regulation are currently under review, and PETA U.K. will urge legislators to take action in areas where the commission has failed.

What’s Next?

PETA will keep pushing for change for animals and for better testing methods.

You can always find cruelty‑free cosmetics, personal‑care products, and more by checking out our searchable database of companies that do and that don’t test their products on animals.

Animals in Laboratories Still Need Your Help

In the U.S., the Cease Animal Research Grants Overseas (CARGO) Act would prevent the National Institutes of Health from awarding “grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, or technical assistance” of any kind to any foreign entity for experiments on animals—including those in Europe.

The CARGO Act would stem the flow of money to unaccountable and potentially illegal foreign animal experimenters who operate outside the reach of U.S. law. The bill is commonsense legislation that would send a commonsense message: No more. The abuse stops here!

Note: PETA supports animal rights, opposes all forms of animal exploitation, and educates the public on those issues. PETA does not directly or indirectly participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office or any political party.
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