More than 1.4 million EU citizens sign Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics ECI

By Julia Wray 2-Sep-2022

The signature-collecting initiative launched August 2021 with the deadline ending 31 August 2022

<i>White lab mouse in hand, credit: Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff via Wikimedia Commons</i>

White lab mouse in hand, credit: Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff via Wikimedia Commons

More than 1.4 million people across the European Union (EU) have signed a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to strengthen and protect the ban on cosmetics animal testing.

The Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics ECI was launched in August 2021 by animal protection organisations Cruelty Free Europe, PETA, Eurogroup for Animals and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, with the support of The Body Shop and Dove.

The deadline for collecting signatures for the ECI passed at 11.59pm CEST on 31 August, with in excess of 1.4 million citizens backing the protection of cruelty-free cosmetics.

According to Cruelty Free International, to date, only six ECIs out of a total of 90 that have ever been registered have successfully completed the validation stage; to have attracted over one million signatures, the organisation said, is already a strong signal to Europe’s decision-makers.

“Although we now have to wait several months to see if our ECI is validated by EU member states, the huge number of signatures must surely underline to Europe’s lawmakers the strength of feeling there is on this issue,” commented Kerry Postlewhite, Director of Public Affairs, Cruelty Free Europe.

“We hope that the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament and national governments take heed and act at once to end the testing on animals of ingredients used in cosmetics.

“The people of Europe have made the task for the European Commission clear: it must listen to consumers and the cosmetics industry and stop all animal testing for cosmetics. At the very least, we need a moratorium on animal testing while the ban on testing cosmetics on animals is strengthened.”

Postlewhite continued: “We are incredibly proud of this collaborative landmark and look forward to successful validation of the signatures.

“The European Commission and member state governments like to tell the public that cosmetics and their ingredients cannot be tested on animals in Europe and that cosmetics that rely on safety data from animal testing anywhere in the world cannot be sold here.

“That’s what we think the European bans should mean, but they have effectively been shredded with the requirement that several widely-used cosmetic ingredients be tested on animals under the guise of the REACH chemicals regulation.

“Because of this, thousands of rats and rabbits have been condemned to suffer in tests in which they could be force-fed a cosmetics ingredient, have chemicals dripped in their eyes or rubbed on their shaved skin before being killed and dissected.

“Cosmetics are safe without animal tests. Companies have been developing human-relevant alternatives to animal tests for decades, and these ingredients have a long history of safe use.”

The organisers of the initiative now have three months to submit signatures to member state competent authorities for validation before they can take it to the European Commission and Parliament for action.

What’s the issue?

In the EU, a ban on the testing of finished cosmetic products came into effect in September 2004.

A ban on animal testing of cosmetic ingredients in the EU came into effect in March 2009, at which point it became illegal to test cosmetic ingredients for that purpose on animals in Europe.

A marketing ban, to ensure that ingredients could not be tested anywhere in the world to meet the requirements of the EU Cosmetics Regulation, came into effect 11 March 2013.

This means that no cosmetic ingredients can be used in the EU if they have been tested on animals to meet the requirements of the EU Cosmetic Products Regulation (1223/2009) anywhere in the world.

However, in a major bone of contention for animal rights agencies, to meet the requirements of the EU’s chemicals regulation REACH, which exists to ensure human health in the workplace and the environment, the collection of new data on cosmetic ingredients using animal tests may be mandated.

The newly completed ECI was launched in response to proposals to extend the scope of chemical safety legislation under the EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, which the organisations behind the ECI said look set to massively increase the amount of regulatory animal testing taking place in Europe.

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A study carried out in 2021 by the European Centre for Alternatives to Animal Testing found that 63 chemical safety assessment dossiers in the EU’s chemicals database had used the results of new animal testing for cosmetics risk assessment, with this number looking set to increase as the European Chemicals Agency carries out more reviews.