The European Parliament’s health and environment committee has called for a worldwide ban on animal testing in the cosmetics industry.
On Tuesday, the committee voted in favour of a resolution calling on the European Council and European Commission to advocate for an international convention that would ban the practice within the United Nations framework.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on the committee pointed out that stricter controls on animal testing do not limit growth in the cosmetics industry. Europe is the largest market for cosmetic products in the world, and the European cosmetics sector is “thriving,” MEPs said. The sector provides around two million jobs in the EU.
The EU has prohibited the testing of finished cosmetic products on animals since 2004, and the testing of cosmetic ingredients on animals since 2009. Marketing of cosmetic products containing ingredients that were tested on animals has also been illegal in the EU since 2009, while the sale of all animal-tested cosmetics was banned in 2013.
However, animal testing of cosmetics is still permitted in 80% of countries across the globe, according to the committee, as is the marketing of cosmetic products that have been tested on animals. In China, for example, the government requires animal tests for all imported cosmetics, according to The Humane Society, an animal protection organisation in the United States. Worldwide, an estimated 500,000 animals are used for testing each year.
“The time to act is now. We know that it won’t be easy to change international rules and regulations but now is the time to put pressure for things to change,” Miriam Dalli, a Socialists and Democrats MEP from Malta who co-authored the resolution, told Malta Today.
“Some influential states and regions, including some members of the International Committee of Cosmetics Regulation do not yet have bans in place and we need to see more states coming forward and [implementing] such a ban,” Dalli added.
The committee also wants to ensure World Trade Organisation rules and trade negotiations do not weaken an EU ban. In the resolution, committee members raised concerns about weaknesses in the EU system, which allow products tested on animals to still be sold in Europe. For example, products can be tested on animals outside the EU, then placed on the European market after undergoing alternative testing upon re-entry into the bloc.
Additionally, ingredients in cosmetics are often found in other products, such as detergents, foods or pharmaceuticals. Since the current ban only applies to cosmetics, the committee said it is possible these ingredients are still tested on animals under other legal frameworks.
As a result, MEPs urged the EU to find a way to ensure no cosmetic products on the market have been tested on animals in a non-EU country, and to back the development of alternative testing methods.
“We must be vigilant,” said Julie Girling, European Conservatives and Reformists Group MEP. “Otherwise the EU-wide ban counts for nothing.”
MEPs also emphasised that animal welfare is important to European citizens. A 2016 Eurobarometer survey found that 89% of Europeans agree the “EU should do more to promote a greater awareness of animal welfare internationally.” The survey also showed that 90% of people in the EU agree “it is important to establish high animal welfare standards that are recognised across the world.”
The resolution will be put to a vote next month in Strasbourg at the European Parliament’s plenary session.