Europe Approves Eventual, Someday, Maybe "Ban" on Animal Testing

The European parliament this month approved its so-called ban on animal testing for cosmetics products. What the “ban” really means since the full force of its provisions won’t go into effect for at least 10 years, remains to be seen.

Assuming the law is approved by individual states, by 2009 companies must convert 11 of 14 animal tests to animal alternatives (even though many of those alternatives are only non-animal in the sense that they don’t use whole animals).

Companies are given until 2013 to move to animal alternatives for the remaining three tests.

British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection’s spokesperson Wendy Higgins said of the vote,

This is potentially a historic moment, since to eradicate cosmetic animal testing from the European Union is quite an achievement. However, it is shameful that it has taken so long to do this. We are also disappointed we have a staggered sales ban.

Color me skeptical.

First, plenty of cosmetics and other finished products tested on animals will continue to be sold in Europe indefinitely since all existing compounds — most, if not all, of which have been extensively tested on animals — are grandfathered in.

Second, the 6 and 10 year respective deadlines is like balanced budget legislation in the United States — it simply delays the actual decision making to a point where politicians currently in office will likely not have to deal with it. As those deadlines approach, watch for high powered lobbying to extend the deadlines (and the cosmetics industry is already laying the groundwork for that).

Third, the ban faces a likely strong objection in the World Trade Organization that it represents an unfair barrier to trade.

This “ban” seems more like a classic political maneuver common to democracies where legislation that appears to take a strong position but in actuality essentially commits a government to no immediate action is offered up to appease a perceived politically vocal group.

Tune in around 2008 or so to see if the Europeans stick to their guns on this total ban on animal testing for cosmetics.


Law makeover closes animal test loopholes. Alastair Dalton and Nicola Smith, The Scotsman, January 13, 2003.

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