The European Commission’s recent move to phase out animal testing for chemicals in Europe has been hailed as a step in the right direction by animal welfare campaigners. However, it falls short of addressing citizens’ wishes regarding the ban on animal testing for cosmetics. Despite the “Save Cruelty-Free Cosmetics – Commit to a Europe Without Animal Testing” European citizens’ initiative garnering support from 1.2 million European citizens, the Commission has not taken action to protect the existing EU ban on cosmetic animal testing. This article explores the Commission’s initiatives and the concerns raised by citizens and animal protection groups.

A Positive Start: Phasing Out Animal Testing for Chemicals

The European Commission’s plan to eliminate animal testing for chemicals is a welcome move for animal welfare advocates. This initiative seeks to promote alternative methods for chemical testing and ultimately reduce the use of animals in research and education. Campaigners commend the Commission for acknowledging the importance of prioritizing non-animal testing approaches.

Ignoring Citizens’ Demands: The Issue with Cosmetic Animal Testing

Despite a significant number of citizens expressing their support for cruelty-free cosmetics, the Commission has failed to uphold the ban on animal testing for cosmetics. The EU had implemented a ban on animal testing for cosmetic ingredients back in 2009, but animal tests for chemicals used in industrial settings or released into the environment continue under the REACH regulation. Disturbingly, updates to REACH suggest an increase in animal testing, further perpetuating animal suffering.

Animal Suffering in Laboratories

In 2020, a shocking 7.9 million animals endured unimaginable suffering in EU and Norwegian laboratories. Rabbits, mice, cats, and dogs were subjected to forceful administration of substances, infection with debilitating diseases, genetic manipulation, brain damage through surgery, exposure to severe pain, and breeding programs that perpetuated the cycle of suffering. The Commission’s exploration of non-animal methods is a step forward, but it falls short of citizens’ demands for a comprehensive reform.

The “Save Cruelty-Free Cosmetics” European Citizens’ Initiative

Launched in August 2021, the “Save Cruelty-Free Cosmetics” ECI garnered support from various animal protection groups, including Cruelty Free Europe, Eurogroup for Animals, the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, Humane Society International/Europe, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, backed by beauty brands The Body Shop and Dove. The initiative called for strengthened and protected bans on cosmetic animal testing, the transformation of chemical regulations to eliminate animal testing, and a commitment to phasing out all animal testing in Europe.

Commitments Made by the Commission

In response to the ECI, the Commission has made some positive commitments, including:

  1. Developing a roadmap to end all mandated tests on animals for industrial chemicals, pesticides, biocides, and human and veterinary medicines.
  2. Exploring the creation of an expert scientific committee to advise on non-animal approaches’ development and uptake.
  3. Proposing an action plan for the European Research Area to coordinate national policies in replacing animal use in laboratories and accelerating the implementation of non-animal methods.
  4. Organizing expert workshops to prioritize research areas that accelerate the transition to animal-free science.

Looking Ahead: Pushing for Meaningful Impact

While these commitments are encouraging, citizens expect the Commission to ensure their implementation has a maximum and meaningful impact. Animal welfare advocates will continue to push for further action, urging the Commission to propose more substantial changes to legislation and policies, setting a path for member states, regulators, and assessment bodies to phase out all animal testing in laboratories. The goals of the ECI must be pursued collectively by all relevant actors.

The European Commission’s plan to phase out animal testing for chemicals shows progress towards a cruelty-free future. However, the failure to protect the ban on cosmetic animal testing disregards citizens’ wishes and the suffering of countless animals. It is imperative that the Commission heeds the calls of its citizens and takes further action to ensure animal welfare remains a top priority in Europe’s scientific endeavors. Only through collective efforts can Europe move closer to a future without animal testing.