It seems obvious: Why would any human willfully want to torture an animal? But so many big corporations in the beauty industry still test products on animals. Even with the prevalence of the "cruelty-free" stamp on a package, it's still highly likely animal testing was used on the individual ingredients that make up the final "cruelty-free" product.
Companies aren't even required to label their products to reflect whether they've been tested on animals — it's more of an honor system, very loosely controlled.
Here are five more facts I wish everyone knew about animal testing in the personal care industry:
1. The most popular, top-selling beauty brands are still tested on animals.
Chances are something in your shower or medicine cabinet has been tested on animals. It's common for brands to say they haven't tested their products on animals, but what they don't tell consumers is that they use ingredients that have been tested on animals.
Simply labeling a product "cruelty-free" doesn't mean much nowadays. According to the FDA, "companies may rely on raw material suppliers or contract laboratories to perform any animal testing necessary to substantiate product or ingredient safety ... Many raw materials, used in cosmetics, were tested on animals years ago when they were first introduced. A cosmetic manufacturer might only use those raw materials and base their 'cruelty-free' claims on the fact that the materials or products are not 'currently' tested on animals."
So what labels can you trust? Look for the Leaping Bunny, the most stringent of all "cruelty-free" labels. Companies with this logo must back up their promise with on-site audits by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics. Likewise, the PETA Bunny signifies the company has pledged they won't conduct, commission or pay for tests on animals.
2. Most stores carry products that are tested on animals.
The largest and most popular beauty destinations, from drugstores to department stores, only offer a small number of products that aren't tested on animals. For example, of the almost 300 brands carried at Sephora, only about 20 don't test on animals according to PETA.
3. There are no federal laws that prohibit animals testing in the US.
But in the EU, animal testing was prohibited in 2013. The EU began the first ban in 2004 by just banning finished product testing on animals. In 2008, they banned ingredient testing on animals. While heavy lobbying prolonged the process, by 2013 the law was finally passed. The US is the largest cosmetics market in the world and the lobbying efforts by the industry here may explain why the US is so far behind.
4. Some states are trying to curb this practice.
There are on three US states that have passed legislation that limits animal testing: California, New York and New Jersey. However, there aren't nearly enough inspectors to enforce these laws, so brands sold in these states can easily violate the laws. With only 120 inspectors, the USDA oversees more than 12,000 facilities involved in research, exhibition, breeding or dealing of animals.
5. Effective and precise alternatives to animal testing do exist.
At Johns Hopkins, for example, the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing is dedicated to finding ways to test chemicals safely without harming living creatures.
Here are five easy-to-remember guidelines to help you take action now and shop smarter:
1. Stop buying brands that test on animals.
For starters, look for cruelty-free claims on the packaging of your favorite products. You can also check out the websites of nonprofit groups like PETA.org or LeapingBunny.org to see if your brands are listed.
2. Take action by supporting the Humane Cosmetics Act legislation to end testing on animals.
This legislation makes it unlawful for anyone to conduct or commission cosmetic animal testing in the US. It also prohibits selling and transporting in interstate commerce any product (or component) that was developed or manufactured using animal testing.
3. Support the cause.
Donate to nonprofits that are leading the change against animal testing and pushing the boundaries in research to find more alternatives to animal testing.
4. Don't invest in cruelty.
If you have a 401k, a mutual fund or any kind of investment portfolio that invests in broad sector stocks, pay attention to what specific companies you're contributing to. Do a little fact checking ... you may be surprised to find you're inadvertently supporting a company that tests on animals.
This may take a little digging on your part — you'll have to look at your statement and find out which companies are contained in your fund. PETA has a useful tool that allows you to search for a brand, its parent company and if it tests on animals.
5. Read and spread the message on social media.
Without our voices, this will not stop.
The recognition that animal testing is unnecessary will only become more mainstream if consumers pressure legislators to enact laws to protect animals. Collectively, we can achieve this, while answering the few critics by promoting the alternative methods of safety testing science is providing us.