National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

The end of animal tests for cosmetics in the EU

Posted: 13 March 2013. Updated: 13 March 2013


The final step to end the sale of animal tested cosmetics in Europe was taken on March 11th 2013, when the marketing ban took effect. This date marks the conclusion of an historic campaign which has seen an end to the use of thousands of animals in cosmetic testing across Europe.

The NAVS campaign on this issue started in 1980 when we called for a total ban on the use of animals for testing cosmetic and household products and condemned the infliction of pain on animals for the sake of beauty. Over the following three decades we obtained photographic evidence of the horrors of cosmetic testing, reported on the introduction of alternative methods for cosmetic safety testing and lobbied throughout the debating of cosmetic animal testing bans in both the European and UK Parliaments.

A ban on animal testing of finished cosmetic products has been in force since September 2004 and a testing ban on ingredients or combinations of ingredients since March 2009. As from March 2009, it was also prohibited in the EU to market cosmetic products and their ingredients which have been tested on animals, irrespective of the origin of these products – this prohibition applied to all but the most complex human health effects (these being repeated-dose toxicity, including skin sensitisation and carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity and toxicokinetics), for which the deadline was extended to 11th March 2013.

Although these phased steps have been frustrating, they have kept us moving forward. During a period of doubt as to whether this final deadline would be moved back further still, the NAVS received communication from the Cabinet of Commissioner for Health, Tonio Borg stating, “Commissioner remains firmly determined to maintain the March deadline and does not envisage to present a legal proposal to postpone the deadline or to provide for derogations.”

Thankfully, the Commissioner has stayed true to his word, bringing the fight to protect animals from future cosmetic testing to an end in Europe. Sadly, we must still continue this fight in other parts of the world where no such ban yet exists.

The campaign to end the use of animals in household product tests is also far from over, with over 4,000 animals currently being experimented on in Europe each year. But with your help, the NAVS believes a ban is an achievable goal.

Cosmetics testing Q&A

Are all cosmetic products in Europe now not tested on animals?
No. Although the Cosmetics Directive has enforced a fixed cut off date for animal testing of new cosmetics throughout Europe, products and their ingredients previously tested on animals up until 11th March 2013 will continue to be on sale in shops.

Will new cosmetic products sold in Europe be free of animal testing?
Yes. Due to the animal testing ban enforced by the Cosmetics Directive, any new products or ingredients created after 11th March 2013 will not have been tested on animals.

How can I find out about the testing policy of a company, i.e. when they last tested on animals, if they test on animals outside the EU?
You can contact manufacturers directly to request a copy of their testing policy, or refer to our cruelty-free products listing.

What is a fixed cut off date?
A fixed cut off date is the last date on which animal tests were last conducted by a manufacturer or supplier and provides consumers with an assurance that cosmetic ingredients will not have been tested on animals after a certain date.

What is repeat dose toxicity?
The purpose of a repeat dose toxicity test is to observe the chronic, long term effects of a substance on various organ systems. The tests in animals may be via the oral route, through the skin or through inhalation. Some of the longer-term tests can last up to 12 months.

What is skin sensitisation?
A skin sensitisation test assesses the ability of a substance to cause an allergic reaction when it comes into contact with the skin. Animal models used for this test commonly include mice and guinea pigs.

What is carcinogenicity?
The objective of this test is to observe animals for a portion of their lives to monitor the development of lesions during or after exposure to test substances

What is reproductive toxicity?
This is toxicity testing for a substance which effects the ability of the animal to reproduce and its offspring to develop. Animal testing involves giving a substance to animals before and during pregnancy.

What are toxicokinetics?
This is the study of how substances are absorbed, distributed, broken down and excreted from the body.

Take action!

  • Please make a donation today to help stop animal tests
  • Find out more about our campaign to end cruel cosmetics tests in Europe
  • Read about our campaign to end household product testing on animals

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