Unilever ramps-up fight for cruelty free cosmetics in Europe

Unilever's PETA-approved brands are encouraging consumers to reach the 1 million signatures mark in a European Citizens' Initiative

Unilever’s PETA-approved brands, including TRESemmé, Simple and St.Ives, have thrown their weight behind the movement to protect Europe’s longstanding ban on animal testing for cosmetics.

Last week, Unilever’s largest brand, Dove, joined forces with The Body Shop, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Cruelty Free Europe, Humane Society International/Europe, Eurogroup for Animals and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments to launch a European Citizens’ Initiative, calling on the European Commission to preserve the ban.

Now, Unilever’s 27 other PETA-approved brands will add their voices to the campaign.

The brands are calling on consumers to take action to get the required 1 million signatures in the fastest time ever for a European Citizens’ Initiative - a mechanism for EU Citizens to help shape the EU by calling on the European Commission to propose new laws.

Why the petition?

The European Union ban on the animal testing of cosmetics and cosmetic-only ingredients in the EU came into effect in March 2009, while the marketing ban – to ensure that products/cosmetic-only ingredients cannot be tested anywhere in the world to meet the requirements of the EU Cosmetics Regulation – was enforced from March 2013.

But, although no cosmetics or cosmetic-only 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 still, the EU’s pan-industry chemicals regulation REACH requires specific human and environmental safety data to be included as part of the registration package, which may involve the collection of new data using animal tests.

In October 2020, the EU Commission fuelled animal testing fears further with the well-intentioned announcement that it was to cut the ‘most harmful chemicals’ from consumer products under its Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability.

A note from Unilever states that the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is calling for new animal testing on ingredients that have been safely used by consumers and handled safely in factories for many years – even those solely used for cosmetics.

Julia Fentem, Head of Unilever’s Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre, commented: “There is no reason to test cosmetics products, or the ingredients used in them, on animals.

"The European Chemicals Agency’s proposals pose a significant threat to the progress our industry has made towards ending animal testing for assuring the safety of cosmetics and other consumer products.

“If these proposals go ahead, hundreds of thousands of animals could be subjected to unnecessary tests, when innovative non-animal approaches based on leading-edge science and technology offer reliable alternatives to animal testing. We say use science, not animals.”

Unilever is a historic leader in non-animal approaches to assess product safety, which include computer modelling and cell culture-based experiments.

“Unilever’s pioneering work on non-animal approaches has been critical to the progress the world has been making towards a global ban on animal testing for cosmetics,” added Mimi Bekhechi, Vice President International Programmes, PETA UK.

"It’s only with collective action from companies, consumers, NGOs and governments that we can drive the changes citizens so want to see.

“It’s sad that once again we have to fight a battle that Europe’s citizens thought they had already won, but with a successful European Citizens’ Initiative, we can make decision-makers listen, protect the ground-breaking bans and secure concerted action to end the suffering of animals in EU laboratories for good.”

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