The Government Home Office has confirmed a full ban on licences for animal testing for all ingredients used exclusively in cosmetic products.
In May, the Home Secretary announced that no new licences for chemicals used in cosmetics tests would be authorised, but remaining “legacy licences” were allowed to remain active.
In an update on November 23, Minister of State Tom Tugendhat announced that these legacy licences are no longer valid, stating, “No animal testing is now authorised in Great Britain of chemicals that are exclusively intended to be used as ingredients in cosmetics products.”
On May 17, the Government had reinstated a ban on animal testing for ingredients exclusively used in cosmetics for consumers and workers following outcry from the beauty industry and the general public.
Animal rights campaigners had called on the Government to enforce an outright ban on animal testing for ingredients used in cosmetics after it was revealed that, since 2019, the Government had been issuing licences for animal testing of cosmetic ingredients in circumstances where they may impact worker safety.
These licences were revealed during a High Court case brought by animal rights group Cruelty Free International.
The court ruled that the licenses were not in conflict with the Government's ban on cosmetics testing, and only allow for ingredient testing on animals as a “last resort”.
Following media coverage of the case, on May 11, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, “It’s important that the public are reassured here. The ban on using animals to test cosmetic products or ingredients for the consumer remains completely in force.”
However, Cruelty Free International said the spokesperson was misinformed, adding that tests have been allowed for cases of worker safety (as opposed to consumer safety) but that the end result is the same: “The Prime Minister’s statement refers to tests ‘for the consumer’. Whether labelled as consumer or worker safety, the animal tests are identical.”
In a statement released by then Home Secretary Suella Braverman on May 17, the ban on new licences was reinstated.
Braverman said, “I can inform the House that the Government is taking action to seek alternatives to animal testing for worker and environmental safety of chemicals used exclusively as cosmetic ingredients.
“We are therefore announcing a licensing ban with immediate effect.
“The Government is committed to replacing animals used in science wherever scientifically possible and is confident that the UK science sector and industry has the talent to provide the solutions.
“The cosmetic regulations require manufacturers to demonstrate that their products are safe for use by consumers.
“Animal testing for consumer safety of cosmetics and their ingredients was banned in the UK in 1998. This ban remains in force.
“Under chemicals regulations (the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals regime, or REACH), chemicals manufacturers and importers must demonstrate the hazards to human health and the environment of the chemicals they place on the market.
“This includes chemicals used as ingredients in cosmetics. In some cases, where there are no validated alternatives, this has in the past required testing on animals as a last resort.
“The REACH regime is separate from, and has a different purpose to, the consumer cosmetics regulations, which is why it has been possible that a chemical used in cosmetics production may be required to be tested on animals.
“This has been reflected in the issuing of a small number of time-limited licences between 2019 and 2022.
“The Government recognises the public concern around the testing on animals of chemicals used as ingredients in cosmetics, and the new opportunities available to us to depart from the EU testing regime.
“I can confirm, therefore, that from today no new licences will be granted for animal testing of chemicals that are exclusively intended to be used as ingredients in cosmetics products.”
However, following that ban, animal rights campaigners called for the Government to go further with a ban on all existing licences as well as new ones.
In response to November's ruling, which extneded the ban to legacy licences, animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) welcomed the news. PETA's science policy manager, Dr Julia Baines, commented, “Finally, thousands of rats, rabbits, and fish will be spared agonising suffering and certain death in cruel cosmetics tests.
“PETA applauds the Home Office for standing by the original ban on animal testing for cosmetics, which was implemented 25 years ago to ensure that only superior non-animal methods would be used to assess the safety of cosmetics.”
PETA noted that not only has the UK Government confirmed it won’t allow testing for consumer safety assessment, it also ruled that no such testing should be conducted for workers or for environmental safety assessment, making it one of the strongest commitments ever made worldwide by a national authority.
However, the UK ban is in stark contrast to a recent EU court judgement, which ruled that animal testing for cosmetics continues for worker and environmental assessment in the EU.
On November 22, the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled against cosmetics ingredients manufacturer Symrise AG, which sought to overturn a decision mandating that it test cosmetics ingredients on animals.