The beauty industry is hiding an ugly secret: Animals are still being used for cosmetic testing. Right now rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats and mice are all having chemicals forced down their throats, dripped into their eyes and smeared into their bare skin. Pushed to their bodies' limits, they will be denied pain relief as they endure archaic chemical poisoning tests devised more than half a century ago. Then they will be killed callously once testing is complete. There is simply no excuse for that cruelty, yet it is estimated that around the world approximately 200,000 animals suffer and die from cosmetic testing each year. In Australia, while we may have taken steps to stop that abuse, our laws do not go far enough. Legislation banning the testing of cosmetics on animals came into effect in July of last year. The Federal Government recently announced a new voluntary code of practice to support the ban. However, disappointingly, Australia's ban on animal testing extends only to ingredients used exclusively for cosmetics, despite very few cosmetics being made with sole‑purpose cosmetic ingredients. Essentially, the Australian legislation came in when no sole focus cosmetic ingredient testing was occurring in Australia and had not for some time. Therefore, the Federal legislation makes no real change to animal testing in this country but rather creates confusion while we still test some cosmetic ingredients, and continue to import and sell cosmetics tested on animals overseas.
RSPCA data tells us that 85 per cent of Australians oppose testing cosmetics on animals, but what many consumers searching for non‑animal tested beauty products do not know is that we do not ban or properly regulate the claims made by companies that willingly test on animals overseas. Our current laws allow popular brands such as Bobbi Brown, MAC and Clinique to promote themselves as being cruelty free in Australia despite their items being tested on animals overseas. China is known not only as the world's second biggest cosmetics market but also as the world's biggest proponent of animal testing. It is the only country worldwide where, in many cases, animal testing for cosmetics is a requirement by law. While China is slowly moving away from this extreme cruelty by lifting its mandatory animal testing for domestically manufactured cosmetics in 2014 and announcing an end to similar testing for imported cosmetics in March this year, many cosmetic items are still legally required to undergo animal testing, including hair dyes, whitening products, sunscreens and anti‑hair loss products.
Animals will continue to be tortured for cosmetic testing as long as international brands continue to sell these products in China. If we are serious about stopping cosmetic testing on animals, we cannot allow these same brands to sell their products here, especially under the guise of bring cruelty free. With modern, non‑animal tests that better predict human reactions now available for the majority of cosmetic safety issues, animal testing should be a thing of the past. It is a conscious choice to engage in this cruelty. Our laws should properly reflect the values of the community and protect them from inadvertently supporting animal cruelty.
The precedent has been set. The European Union has already cemented itself as the world's largest animal testing free cosmetic market and is being closely followed by countries including India, Turkey, Switzerland and Chile. We need to do more than pass token legislation in an effort to join the international movement to protect animals. It is time for us to properly catch up. We have the support of the Australian public behind us, and with the right legislation we can create real change for the hundreds of thousands of animals that are still trapped in the cosmetic testing industry.