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.