Ladies, I have a challenge for you. First, think of all the makeup you have stored away in your cosmetics bags and bathroom drawers: mascara, foundation, eyeliner, blush, concealer, bronzer, eye shadow, primer, lipstick and nail polish. You’ve probably got some CoverGirl in there, some Maybelline New York, Sally Hansen, L’Oréal, Neutrogena or New York Color. Now think of all the hair products you own: shampoo and conditioner, hairspray, heat protector, serum and leave-in conditioner. Let me guess — you own products from at least one of the following companies: Pantene Pro-V, L’Oréal, Herbal Essences, Garnier Fructisse, Aussie, Head & Shoulders or Dove.
Here’s my second challenge: Guess how many of the companies mentioned above are guilty of performing cruel and vile tests on animals, all in the name of cosmetics. What do you think? A couple? Actually, all of them. Which means if you own products from any of the brands I’ve listed, you’ve been funding, and therefore supporting, one of the most grotesque and unethical practices occurring today in the cosmetics industry.
Within the confines of cold laboratory walls, in steel barren cages, imprisoned dogs, cats, monkeys, rabbits, birds, mice, rats and guinea pigs await experimentation. Some lay sprawled across the cage floor, motionless, the way a man who has never experienced love or happiness might contort himself in depressive confinement. Some encircle their cages wildly, driven mad from stress, anxiety and isolation. At any point during their lives, they can be subjected to a series of abhorrent tests, some of which seem more fitting for a scene in a “Saw” film.
Common side effects of animal experimentation include convulsions and seizures, paralysis, ulceration of the skin and eyes, severe abdominal pain and bleeding from the nose, mouth and genitals, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Now listen very carefully to what I’m about to tell you. At the end of the day, multibillion-dollar cosmetic giants — such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and L’Oréal — will adamantly defend their decisions to continue testing on animals by insisting they are merely trying to ensure the safety of the general public. Unfortunately, this claim alone often compels consumers to abandon doing any further research on the matter. In reality, animal experimentation is not as accurate or dependable as these companies would have you believe.
PETA and The Humane Society of the United States are just two organizations that have launched major campaigns rebuking animal testing for cosmetics purposes, insisting this method is “outdated,” “scientifically unreliable” and “misleading.” One misconception people mistakenly believe is that the Food and Drug Administration requires cosmetic products to be tested on animals prior to being distributed to the public. This is incorrect. It is true that, within the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, companies are strongly advised to “employ whatever testing is appropriate and effective for substantiating the safety of their products.” But nowhere does it state that animals are required to be the subjects of such tests. Considering there are more reliable, cost-effective and cruelty-free methodologies in existence, it is absolutely astonishing to me that companies obstinately continue to defend their participation.
Some of these alternative methodologies include EpiDerm and EpiSkin, which “consist of normal, human-derived skin cells, which have been cultured to form a multi-layered model of human skin (and) have been validated and accepted in Canada, the European Union … as total replacements for animal-based skin corrosion studies,” according to PETA. In addition, people can, and have, volunteered to test products themselves.
But Procter & Gamble, the same colossal corporation that owns Crest, Gillette, Venus, Pantene Pro-V, Oral-B, Olay, Herbal Essences, Tampax, Head & Shoulders, CoverGirl, Tide, Secret, Clairol, Aussie and more, is just one culprit. “P&G test on animals because of their desire to get new chemical ingredients on to the market. This allows them to claim that their new hair dye, skin cream or washing powder etc. is ‘new, improved’, in the hope of increasing sales,” stated Uncaged, a U.K. team dedicated to campaigning for animal welfare.
With such a severe and incredulous lack of ethics, you’re probably wondering how companies like P&G have managed to remain popular and successful among consumers. Simply put, people trust these companies. Consumers know them, have come to love these brands; and when you refuse to acknowledge the direct chain linking abhorrent animal experiments with your cosmetics, you can take your Maybelline eyeliner and CoverGirl mascara to the checkout counter without feeling guilty. Or can you?
I realize you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed. But it’s not all bad news. Quite the opposite, because this issue is continuously gaining fervent public support, more and more companies are abandoning this obsolete and abhorrent practice once and for all. This is excellent news for consumers, who now have access to wider availability of cruelty-free companies than ever before. Revlon, Burt’s Bees, It’s A 10, Paul Mitchell, e.l.f., Smashbox cosmetics, Too Faced and Urban Decay, are just some of the “safe” companies. LUSH, an international company that produces handmade, organic personal care items has even launched a major campaign persuading all cosmetics companies to switch to cruelty free alternatives, and has even refused to do business with third parties that test on animals. Keep companies such as these in mind if you get discouraged.
If I’ve learned anything from boycotting animal-tested products for the past six years, it’s this: the most important bit of information to remember from this entire column is to do your own research. Never guess, never assume. Certain sources, even PETA’s “Companies That Do Not Test On Animals” list, can provide incorrect information sometimes.
Lastly, if you ever feel the urge to cave, simply watch a video of a monkey or a Beagle being restrained, tortured, burned, poisoned and murdered. Then look down at the concealer you’re about to buy and ask yourself how in the hell you’re going to be able to use that.
For company testing information on the go, visit leapingbunny.org to download a free app.
—Stacey Oparnica is a journalism senior.