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Impact of ban on animals in cosmetics sector

Thursday, Sep 26, 2013
The Straits Times
By Andy Ho

In 2009, the European Union (EU) banned all animal testing of cosmetics. This March, it extended the ban to also forbid the marketing of all cosmetics that have been tested on animals, whether such products were manufactured in the EU or imported from abroad.

Both bans are now enshrined in a new law called the 2013 EU Cosmetics Regulation.

The EU cosmetics sector is almost half that of the global cosmetics market, being as large as the cosmetics sectors in the United States and Japan combined.

Thus, cosmetics makers from outside the EU targeting the lucrative EU market will now have to abide by the Regulation.

Yet the bans will have only a limited impact on the total number of animals saved from use in labs. Only 15,000 to 27,000 animals, mainly rats, mice, guinea pigs and rabbits, will be saved, according to the EU.

By contrast, in 2008 (which was the final year in which animal testing for cosmetics was permitted in the EU), 257,350 animals were used experimentally in the EU to test non-cosmetic products. The latter were mainly chemicals and pharmaceuticals, which are much larger sectors. The EU cosmetics sector is worth €32 billion (S$54 billion) whereas its pharmaceuticals sector is worth €205.6 billion. The chemicals sector is an even heftier €642 billion.

So the first reason the Regulation will only save a relatively small number of animals is that the absolute number of animals used to test cosmetics in the EU was small to begin with.

The second reason is that even within the cosmetics industry, there are loopholes embedded in the Regulation that enable manufacturers to skirt the bans in some instances.

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