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TOXIC ALLIES: Animal rights and environmental campaigners split over EU animal testing ban

Environmental groups say that although they support the goal of reducing animal testing such an out-and-out ban would compromise safety testing.

LEONIE CATER: A campaign to end animal testing in the EU is creating an unusual alliance of animal rights activists and industry both calling for a comprehensive ban while environmental campaigners warn of the danger of halting all such tests.

Animal testing for cosmetic purposes was — with a few exceptions — banned under EU law in 2009. A ban on all animal testing came into force in 2013. But a rather large loophole remains: Under the EU’s flagship chemicals regulation, REACH, the safety certification of certain cosmetic ingredients still requires that chemicals companies use animal testing. Activists, industry and policymakers now want to close that gap and move away from animal testing entirely…

The measure is expected to pass, as all political groups — from the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) to the Greens — have voiced their support. The motion is not legally binding on the Commission but could influence upcoming proposals for its revision of classification, labeling and packaging regulations.

Humane Society International estimates “millions” of animals have died as a result of REACH. In an emailed statement, Unilever claimed it “can already say that we no longer need animal testing to assess the safety of our products and ingredients across our portfolio” and “fully supports” Parliament’s initiative.

Environmental groups, meanwhile, say that although they support the goal of reducing animal testing such an out-and-out ban would compromise safety testing… Animal rights organizations and environmental NGOs have not seen eye-to-eye on the issue for years.

Since its inception in 2006, REACH — which obliges companies to prove their chemical is safe before they can put it on the market — has come under fire from animal rights activists for its dependence on laboratory animals. PETA labeled it the “largest animal testing [program] in the world.”

Environmental groups like WWF-founded ChemSec, meanwhile, welcomed REACH as “a bold and progressive framework for regulating and restricting the use of the most hazardous substances.” Now, animal rights activists are being bolstered by support from industry, which is eager to phase out animal testing requirements.

Cosmetics brands The Body Shop and Unilever’s Dove joined up with NGOs including PETA and Cruelty Free Europe last month to call on the EU to strengthen the bloc’s cosmetics animal testing ban and work toward a worldwide ban by 2023.

“Continuing to rely on animal tests rather than cutting-edge scientific advances will hold back achievement of the aims of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability and the overarching goals of the EU Green Deal,” CEFIC and Cruelty Free Europe wrote in a joint statement…

Anna Lennquist, senior toxicologist at ChemSec, said she was wary of industry motivations, pointing out that animal tests are “very costly” for companies. She highlighted that “a number of chemicals that we know are problematic are still allowed for use in cosmetics,” adding: “If we introduce a global ban on animal tests, we need to [be sure] to use knowledge achieved elsewhere to make cosmetics safer”. SOURCE…


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