British public misled over cosmetic tests

12 April 2016

Posted by: UAR news team

Category: Communications & media

An internet quiz by Understanding Animal Research of over 4,000 people has revealed that only 38% of respondents are aware that it is illegal to test cosmetics or their ingredients on animals in the UK. The UK ended this practice in 1998 and a 2013 EU-wide ban means that it illegal for any cosmetic product to be sold in any EU country if either the product or its ingredients are tested on animals

Respondents were asked to select from a list which shops they believed used animals to test the cosmetic products they sold in the UK. Boots, Tesco and Sainsbury’s were all picked by over 40% of people; The Body Shop was selected by 30% and Lush by 14%. 

Understanding Animal Research has written to all major supermarkets and cosmetic retailers, urging them to put additional information in their stores to help inform the public.  

It was not just cosmetic testing which stumped members of the public. When asked to identify which of a range of medicines used animals in their development, only 43% correctly recognised that animals were key to the development of all of them, including: vaccines (such as polio, meningitis and HPV), antibiotics, anaesthetics and asthma inhalers.

Wendy Jarrett, CEO of Understanding Animal Research, said:

“The proliferation of ‘Not tested on animals’ or ‘Cruelty-Free’ logos has led many to believe that other cosmetic products sold on the UK market are tested on animals – something which has not been the case for 18 years. While animals continue to play a small but key role in medical developments, the UK has successfully eliminated such testing for cosmetics and, more recently, household products.”

For more information, check out our overview on UK and EU lawEU Regulation 1223/2009, banned both the testing of cosmetics or their ingredients on animals, and the import and sale of such products from abroad. However, most ingredients will have been tested at some point in the past. While the EU, and many other countries, have banned tests on cosmetics or their ingredients, some countries still require cosmetics to undergo animal tests for regulatory purposes. The UK Government is working with regulators in other countries to support them in moving away from cosmetic tests on animals.

And on the medical side of things:

How did animals contribute to the development of medical treatments?

  • Vaccines – Forty years of research involving monkeys, rats and mice led directly to the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines. Studies on CRPV rabbits gave the first evidence it was possible to treat papillomaviruses; vaccines were created for various animal species in the 90s, and in 2006 an HPV vaccine was made possible after testing in nude mice. 
  • Antibiotics – A mouse protection test was used to show the true bacteria-fighting potential of penicillin in the 1940s. Chain and Florey shared the Nobel Prize with Fleming for this discovery, and animals have been key to testing new antibiotics ever since.
  • Anaesthetics – Experiments on rodents, rabbits, dogs, cats and monkeys showed that the volatile liquid halothane, mixed with oxygen or air, was easy to use, produced rapid anaesthesia and recovery, has minimal side effects, and the added advantage of some muscle relaxation.
  • Asthma inhalersAnimal studies contributed not only to the development of both ‘reliever’ and ‘preventer’ inhalers, but also to an understanding of asthma essential to the development of various treatments. Primates, rabbits, guinea pigs and frogs all contributed to the modern inhaler.