European Union Agrees on Cosmetics Testing Ban — Well, Sort Of

The European Union this month finally reached agreement on a law that will ban animal testings on consumer products as well as the marketing and sale of products that are tested on animals outside of EU countries. But the ban has significant loopholes that make it unlikely that animal testing for such products will end anytime soon.

The agreement to amend the EU’s 1976 Cosmetics Directive defines 14 different types of tests currently performed on animals to determine the safety of consumer products. Of those 14 tests, 11 will be banned outright — well, at least they will be banned by 2009, assuming there are no later extensions to that date.

The three remaining tests are designed to measure toxicity and potential reproductive side effects of chemicals. Those tests don’t have any viable alternatives to using animals. So they are set to be banned in 2014, unless there are still no viable alternatives by then in which case those tests can be granted a 10 year extension. So maybe by 2024, the EU might be looking at banning all testing on animal products.

Don’t hold your breath, though, as even the animal rights groups pushing for the ban note that this is unlikely. Wendy Higgins of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection told The Guardian,

This has been an extremely long battle to convince Europe to finally stop killing animals in cosmetics test. But there are too many loopholes and there will never be a complete sales ban. As long as this is tied to non-animal testing alternatives it is doomed because there are only a handful available.

Meanwhile, the ban on products that are tested on animals outside of Europe is likely to face a strong challenge in the World Trade Organization. Great Britain, which already bans animal testing on consumer products in the UK, had long opposed these changes precisely because of that concern, but it and France finally withdrew their opposition this time around after the years-long delay was added to the agreement.


Consumer Policy: Conciliation agreement on animal test ban does not go down well. European Report, November 9, 2002.

New deal on animal testing. Ian Hernon, Liverpool Echo, November 9, 2002.

Activists hail EU’s ban on animal testing. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Calgary Herald, November 8, 2002.

Ban agreed on using animals to test cosmetics. Daily Post (Liverpool), November 8, 2002.

Cosmetics tested on animals to be banned: Campaigners give guarded welcome to EU deal. Andrew Osborn, The Guardian (London), November 8, 2002.

Compromise between EU governments, legislators paves way for possible 2009 ban on animal-tested cosmetics. Paul Ames, Associated Press, November 7, 2002.

Animal rights slam EU testing ban. Avirl Stephens, CNN, November 7, 2002.

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