Cosmetic Testing on Animals
Every year, millions of animals suffer and die in painful
tests to determine the safety of cosmetics. Substances such as eye
shadow and soap are tested on rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, dogs, and
other animals, despite the fact that the test results don't help
prevent or treat human illness or injury.
Cosmetics are not required to be tested on animals and since
non-animal alternatives exist, it's hard to understand why some
companies still continue to conduct these tests. Cosmetic companies
kill millions of animals every year to try to make a profit.
According to the companies that perform these tests, they are done to
establish the safety of a product and the ingredients. However, the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which regulates cosmetic products,
does not require animal testing. Some of the tests used on animals are
eye irritancy tests, acute toxicity tests, and skin irritancy tests.
In eye irritancy tests, a liquid, flake, granule, or powdered
substance is dropped into the eyes of a group of albino rabbits. The
animals are often immobilized in stocks from which only their heads
protrude. They usually receive no anesthesia during the tests.
After placing the substance into the rabbits eyes, lab technicians
record the damage to the eye tissue at specific intervals over an
average period of 72 hours. The tests sometimes last seven to eighteen
days. Reactions to the substances include swollen eyelids,
ulceration, bleeding, swollen irises massive deterioration, and
blindness. During the tests, rabbits eyelids are usually held open
with clips, because of this, many animals try to break their necks as
they try to escape.
Acute toxicity tests, commonly called lethal dose or poisoning
tests, determine the amount of a substance that will kill a
percentage, even up to one-hundred percent, of a group of test
animals. In these tests, a substance is forced by tube into the
animals stomach or through holes cut in their throats. Experimenters
observe the animals reactions which can include convulsions, labored
breathing, malnutrition, skin eruptions, and bleeding from the eyes,
nose, or mouth. The test was developed in 1927 and the testing
continues until at least fifty percent of the animals die (usually
takes 2-4 weeks). Like eye irritancy tests, lethal dose tests are
unreliable and have too many variables to have a constant result.
Skin irritancy tests are conducted on rabbits, guinea pigs and
other animals. The process involves placing chemicals on the animals
raw, shaved skin and covering the skin with adhesive plaster. The
animals are immobilized in restraining devices to prevent them from
struggling. Meanwhile, laboratory workers apply the chemicals
which burn into the animals skin.
Alternatives to cosmetic testing are less expensive and
generally more reliable to perform. Animals have different biological
systems than humans therefore the tests can't be as accurate as the
current tests. Some alternatives include cell cultures, tissue
cultures, corneas from eye banks, and sophisticated computer and
mathematical models. Companies can also devise a formula using
ingredients already proven safe by the Food and Drug Administration.
Most cruelty-free companies use a combination of methods to
ensure the safety of a product.
Lobbying by animal welfare groups has resulted in federal,
state, and local legislation severely restricting animal
experimentation. For example, under the U.S. Animal welfare act, all
animals used in biomedical research must be bought from vendors
licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA inspects
laboratories where animals are used and enforces federal laws
regarding treatment and care of the animals. Biomedical scientists
have also taken action to prevent the abuse of the animals, mostly
because abused animals may not provide reliable data. The American
Physiological Society, the National Institutes of Health, and many
other scientific organizations have joined to lay down guidelines for
the use and treatment of experimental animals. Now, there are also
many universities with animal welfare committees.
In the United States survey by the American Medical
Association, it was found that 75 percent of Americans are against
using animals in cosmetic testing. Hundreds of companies have
responded by switching to animal-friendly test methods. To help put an
end to animal testing, people can stop buying products that were
tested on animals. You can also call and write to these companies, or
write to your congressional representative about the alternatives that
can be used.