A High Court judge has ruled that the UK government is now free to reinstate its policy ban on the animal testing of cosmetics.
The ruling was made by Mr Justice Linden in the Judicial Review of the Home Office’s policy on animal testing in the UK, which was brought by animal protection organisation Cruelty Free International (CFI).
In 2021, the UK Home Office admitted in a letter to CFI that animal tests on cosmetic ingredients could occur in rare instances if deemed necessary to meet the requirements of chemicals regulations.
In that letter, the Home Office said its approach was akin to that of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which can mandate animal testing to meet the needs of REACH – the EU’s pan-industry chemicals regulation.
The ECHA’s position is that the longstanding bans on animal testing to meet the needs of the EU Cosmetics Regulation do not prevent the need for REACH compliance.
Following Brexit, the UK has adopted its own version of the EU’s REACH system, called UK REACH.
In court, Home Secretary Suella Braverman argued that she was bound by a law originating in the EU to authorise such testing.
Documents disclosed in the court proceedings revealed, for the first time, that the Home Office had secretly abandoned the ban back in 2019.
According to CFI, the Home Office had delayed replying to the NGO for nine months – and subsequently failed to disclose that the policy had been changed two and a half years earlier.
Justice Linden agreed with the Home Office’s interpretation of the legislation, but said that that did not stop the UK having a policy prohibiting cosmetics testing on animals.
He also criticised the “less than transparent” way the Home Office had conducted itself.
“It is outrageous that the government has abandoned the ban on using animals in cosmetics testing and did so in secret while giving the impression that the policy remained in place,” said Cruelty Free International Chief Executive, Michelle Thew.
“Documents the Home Office was forced to disclose in the case show clearly that it was prioritising the interests of contract-testing companies over those of animals and the wishes of the vast majority of British people who are strongly opposed to cosmetics testing.
“Now that the High Court has said it can do so, we call on the government immediately to reinstate the policy ban.”
Other animal rights campaigners have thrown their support behind the High Court's decision.
Chris Davis, Global Director of Activism and Sustainability at The Body Shop, commented: “The Body Shop was the first global beauty company to campaign to ban animal testing in cosmetics in 1989, with the UK becoming the world’s first to rule it out in 1998.
“We share the deep-rooted concerns of our longstanding partner Cruelty Free International that the ban was effectively lifted in 2019, under the radar.
“Following today’s high court ruling we also call on the government to reinstate the ban immediately. We can’t turn back the clock.”
He added: “Allowing animal testing for cosmetics in the UK would be a devastating blow to the millions of people who have supported campaigns to end this appalling practice for nearly 35 years.
“So, the fight continues and we will campaign vigorously, as our late founder Dame Anita Roddick did, for as long as it takes.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office told Cosmetics Business: “We are pleased that the High Court has agreed with the government’s position in this case.
“It remains unlawful to test cosmetic products, or their ingredients, on animals to meet the regulations required to place them on the market. The marketing of cosmetic products or ingredients tested on animals is also banned.”
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