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The Marks & Spencer bunnies

9 June 2010

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Category: Antivivisection & extremism

marks–and–spencers–website.jpgSome may have seen the full page advert by the retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S), with pictures of rabbits, proclaiming its commitment not to test cosmetics or household products on animals. This appears to have been run in various national newspapers last week.

The formal policy of M&S is available on its website. The company claims to 'pass the Cruelty-Free test' and is endorsed by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), and gets a 'Bunny Logo'.

The policy states that:

'we don’t test any of our M&S beauty or household products on animals. But we wanted to go further than this. As part of our Plan A commitments, we guarantee that none of the individual ingredients in our beauty or household products is tested on animals either, starting from a fixed cut-off date of January 2006.'

This means that neither the product nor the raw materials (ingredients) were tested on animals after January 2006. Technically this would mean that M&S could sell products, including new formulations, containing ingredients that were tested on animals (so long as that testing happened before January 2006). It may be that M&S does not sell products which have ever been tested on animals, or plans to progressively introduce new products in which neither the ingredients nor the final product are tested on animals. But there is not sufficient evidence in the policy statement to confirm this.

Neither is there information provided in the policy statement as to whether alternative tests were carried out (if any) to assure consumers of the safety of the product and assess any environmental impact it might have.

It is difficult to work out the implications of the M&S policy. There is no clear definition of a household product, and it appears to sell a limited range of such products, many of which are more like cosmetics (eg tea tree face wipes). In this case, their policy would amount to very little - perhaps just the implementation of the Cosmetics Directive which requires a ban on the testing of cosmetic products and ingredients.

M&S certainly leave themselves open to the claim that they are misleading the public if they cannot verify whether any products or ingredients they sell have ever been tested on animals. It is interesting that BUAV seemed to endorse this approach.