UK could allow animal testing for cosmetics ingredients for the first time since 1998, warns campaigners

The UK could allow animal tests for cosmetic ingredients for the first time since 1998 after the Home Office told animal protection organisation Cruelty Free International (CFI) in a letter last week that it had “reconsidered its policy”. 

The Government told CFI that it was aligning itself with a decision made last year by the appeals board of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) on cosmetics testing, which said that some ingredients used solely in cosmetics need to be tested on animals to ensure they were safe. 

The ECHA ruled that German chemicals firm Symrise had to carry out animal tests on two ingredients used in cosmetics to satisfy chemicals regulations, overruling EU restrictions on animal testing of cosmetic ingredients.

This would be a huge turnaround on policy as animal testing on ingredients exclusively used in cosmetics has been banned in the UK for 23 years (since 1998). 

In 2004, the EU testing ban on finished cosmetic products was introduced, and the ban on such testing of cosmetic ingredients in 2009, but with the UK no longer a member of the EU due to Brexit, changes could be coming.

The Home Office has insisted that UK law on animal testing had not changed and that the ban on using animals for the testing of finished cosmetic products remained in force but accepting the ECHA’s ruling could lead to a much wider use of animal testing, which the CFI said would be “blowing a hole” in the UK’s leadership on animal testing.  

The CFI is asking people to sign and share its #TargetZero petition, which is pushing for a “clear and ambitious action plan” to drive the phase-out of animal experiments. The petition currently has more than 55,000 signatures. You can sign the petition here

Cruelty Free International’s director of science and regulatory affairs, Dr Katy Taylor, said: “This decision blows a hole in the UK’s long-standing leadership of no animal testing for cosmetics and makes a mockery of the country’s quest to be at the cutting-edge of research and innovation, relying once again on cruel and unjustifiable tests that date back over half a century.

“The Government is saying that even ingredients used solely in cosmetics, and with a history of safe use, can be subjected to animal tests in the UK. These are not tests that cosmetics companies want or feel the need to do to ensure the safety of consumers or workers or of our environment. They have worked hard over decades to create and invest significantly in a range of next generation, animal-free safety assessment tools which can be used instead.”

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