During the 2016 election campaign, the Australian Government committed to introduce a ban on animal testing of cosmetic products. The Industrial Chemicals Bill 2017 has been introduced in the House of Representatives on 1 June 2017 to implement this commitment. The following sections of the bill refer to animal testing:
103 Ban on animal test data for determining category for cosmetics
(1) Without limiting paragraph 102(1)(b), if an industrial chemical is to be introduced for an end use solely in cosmetics, rules made for the purposes of that paragraph may include the requirement mentioned in subsection (2).
(2) The requirement is that, when determining the category of introduction for such an industrial chemical, a person must not use animal test data obtained from tests conducted on or after 1 July 2018 in circumstances prescribed by the rules.
168 Ban on animal test data for applications for cosmetics
(1) Without limiting subsection 167(1), if an industrial chemical is to be introduced for an end use solely in cosmetics, an application under this Act relating to the introduction must meet the requirement in subsection (2).
(2) The requirement is that the application must not include animal test data obtained from tests conducted on or after 1 July 2018 in circumstances prescribed by the rules for the purposes of this subsection.
Government legislation to support the end of cosmetic animal testing and trade in Australia is very welcome. However, the draft legislation offers a loophole which would allow newly animal tested cosmetic ingredients to be introduced to the Australian market after the bill becomes law. This would fail to meet the Coalition’s election promise and the expectations of the Australian public to fully end cosmetics testing in Australia.
The loophole rests on the word solely. Only new animal test data used in introductions which are solely for cosmetics use would be prohibited. If the new chemical ingredient would also be used for other purposes, for example in cleaning products, animal testing would still be allowed.
A joint statement by #BeCrueltyFree Australia and Humane Research Australia observes:
This is very welcome progress; however, as not all substances are used exclusively as cosmetic ingredients, some cosmetic ingredients will still be able to be newly animal tested and introduced into Australia under the current proposed language. This is an important departure from existing bans in the European Union, Norway, Switzerland, Israel, and India, which have all banned the use of newly animal-tested ingredients when introducing or marketing cosmetics.
How many of the new chemicals might be used for multiple purposes? A 2013 report by the European Commission stated that:
… large cosmetics manufacturers estimated that, on average, around 10% or less of the new ingredients used by large cosmetics manufacturers were new to market (i.e. have not previously been used in other product sectors).
Dropping the word solely from the bill might fix this loophole. It would ensure that the ban applies to all cosmetics ingredients, and the use of chemicals for non-cosmetic purposes would not be impacted by the ban.
What would happen if a chemical not previously used in cosmetics has been tested in animals and a human health risk has been assumed? Obviously, such a chemical would not be introduced for use in cosmetics, irrespective of the ban (this case would represent disqualifying a chemical for use in cosmetics, rather than introducing one).
On the whole, while this bill does not change much for companies that manufacture cosmetics, it sends a message that Australia does not support cruel and unnecessary testing on animals – if for cosmetics only.
The bill will not have much impact on the number of animals used in animal experiments in Australia, as – to my knowledge – no cosmetics testing on animals has taken place here for some time. But is it a first step towards phasing out animal experimentation for other purposes, too?
Other countries have made much more progress in this regard. For example, the Parliament of the Netherlands in 2016 passed a motion to phase out all research on non-human primates, and by 2025 the Netherlands aims to become a world leader in animal-free science. The Netherlands National Committee for the Protection of Animals Used for Scientific Purposes (NCad) has provided a schedule for phasing out animal procedures.
In the EU, the Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes requires national governments to assist in the advancement of alternative methods to animal testing and to promote the use of non-animal methods.
Unlike Australia, the European Union keeps track of progress made in developing and using alternatives to animal testing. The European Chemicals Agency has just published its third report on “The use of alternatives to testing on animals for the REACH Regulation”. It looks promising:
Registrants use existing information and alternatives to animal testing. Altogether, 6290 substances were analysed for the report. Out of these, 89 % have at least one data endpoint where an alternative was used instead of a study on animals.
The most common alternative method was using information on similar substances (read-across), used in 63 % of the analysed substances, followed by combining information from different sources (weight of evidence, 43 %) and computer modelling (QSAR prediction, 34 %).
In the US, the Federal Accountability in Chemical Testing (FACT) Act was introduced in Congress earlier this year:
The FACT Act would improve reporting by EPA, FDA, NIH, USDA and other government agencies about their efforts to replace inefficient, multi-million-dollar animal tests with faster, less costly and more effective alternative methods for assessing the safety of chemicals, drugs, foods, cosmetics and other substances.
However, it’s anyone’s guess if or when this bill might become law, given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has removed public access to tens of thousands of reports relevant to animal welfare.
Banning cosmetics testing on animals in Australia has been long overdue and is a welcome contribution towards the global move away from animal experimentation more broadly.
PS – On 6/06/2017 the Humane Cosmetics Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. See this press release.