The EU bans cosmetics testing on animals

Animal protection groups call the ban overdue; industry officials say it could cause trade problems
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After more than a decade of debate, European leaders reached an agreement that will ban cosmetics testing on animals and marketing of animal-tested cosmetic products in the European Union.

A conciliatory agreement was reached between the European Parliament and the European Council, Jan. 15, 2003, to amend Council Directive 76/768/EEC. The amended directive immediately bans cosmetics testing on animals and marketing of such products, when alternatives to animal testing are available. A complete ban on cosmetics testing on animals will follow in 2009, to allow time for alternatives to be developed and put into place. Three categories of cosmetic product testing for which no alternatives have yet been considered will be allowed to continue until 2013.

The ban will affect a wide range of products, from shampoos, lotions, and deodorants to mascara and eye shadow.

Some European Union member countries—including the United Kingdom and Germany—had previously banned cosmetic product testing on animals in their respective countries, but not the importation of such products from other countries.

The European Parliament has pushed for a testing and marketing ban for several years. Some member countries, however, resisted the ban, saying it would create trade problems with countries such as the United States and Japan, which export cosmetics to the EU. According to the Cosmetics, Toiletries, and Fragrance Association, the European Union is a $43 million cosmetics market.

As a compromise, deadlines were extended to allow more time for developing and implementing alternatives to animal testing.

"Quite frankly, (the ban) is long overdue," said Sara Amundson, chair of the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics. The coalition comprises of seven U.S. animal protection groups, including the Doris Day Animal League, the Humane Society of the United States, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Cosmetics industry officials oppose the ban.

"We've been fighting this all along," said Lewis Santucci, vice president of the Cosmetics, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association. "It's been a tough emotional issue."

Trade disputes loom
Despite the compromise, officials in the cosmetics industry argue that developing alternatives will be difficult, and the ban could lead to serious trade disputes between the European Union, the United States, and Japan.

Santucci said it would be difficult to develop alternatives to animal testing in the time frame allotted.

"We're going to work very hard to develop alternatives," he said. "But you just don't know where you'll be in six years."

If alternatives do not become available in the time frame allotted, the cosmetics industry could ask the United States to seek extensions or challenge the ban through the World Trade Organization.

Santucci warned that others that work with laboratory animals, including veterinarians and the pharmaceutical industry, are likely to be targeted next by the animal rights organizations that helped pass these laws.