cruelty-free news strikes again

Jezebel report fresh in today:

A class action lawsuit filed by 5 women in Los Angeles alleges that Mary Kay, Estee Lauder, and Avon have profited handsomely from false claims that their products don’t test on animals. The three companies have been fixtures on PETA’s Do Not Test list, have advertised that their products are cruelty-free, and have indicated a lack of animal testing on their products’ packaging.

But when the three companies entered the Chinese market, that cruelty-free status went out the window, and the cosmetics giants continued to advertise themselves as non-animal testing in the American market while routinely testing Chinese products on animals. In China, animal testing is actually legally required in order for many products to reach the market.

According to the suit, the companies didn’t adequately disclose to American consumers that while American market products weren’t being tested on animals, Chinese products were practically made out of ground up kittens. The plaintiffs further allege that many American consumers bought Estee Lauder, Avon, and Mary Kay products under the false pretense that the company doesn’t test on animals in any way, shape, or form, and are asking for $100 million in compensatory damages.

Comments alas not all up to Jezebel‘s usual high standards: ignorant of how FCOD works, the long history of BUAV work on that policy, the facts of how animal testing works (and worked in the past). With a couple of exceptions.

Anyway. Back to the matter at hand.

Some excerpted detail of the plaintiffs’ case c/o Courthouse News Service (1 March):

For years, defendants marketed and advertised their companies and their cosmetic products as not being tested on animals, when in fact defendants were testing their cosmetic products on animals so that they could sell products in China and other foreign countries, thereby reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. Defendants later purported to disclose, at least on their websites, that they in fact were animal testing, but the disclosures were wholly inadequate and deceptive

As a result of the aforementioned representations, defendants, for over two decades, achieved placement in the ‘People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) – Do Not Test’ list, a list of, among others, cosmetic companies that do not test products on live animals. Defendants were, until a matter of weeks ago, among the largest mainstream corporations to be included on PETA’s cruelty-free lists.

As a result of being included on the list, as well as many similar lists, defendants enjoyed the support of PETA and millions of consumers who buy cosmetics only from companies that do not conduct animal testing.

Hence, the commercial success of defendants’ products during the class period was positively influenced by their direct representations regarding animal testing. Simply put, defendants reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from U.S. consumers who otherwise would not have purchased defendants’ products.

[the three companies made] a profit-motivated decision to enter the Chinese market [and] subsequently began testing certain of their products on animals and/or hired others to conduct animal testing of their products.

However, rather than being upfront with American consumers regarding their animal testing policies and adequately disclosing that they were not ‘cruelty’ free, defendants instead failed to inform consumers that they were not cruelty free and/or provided inadequate disclosures regarding the animal testing of their products

[seeking] an injunction and damages for fraud/fraudulent concealment, unfair business practices, false advertising, violations of California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act.

The argument is rather reminiscent of one in my own correspondence of 17 February with EL-group companies. It’ll be a hard one to prove, but the big one on the financial side. And alas, as we all know–from this case all too well–money and number are the most important things there are.

PETA have a decent standard letter template that you can amend as needed and send directly from their site; the text reads:

Dear [decision maker],

I was distressed to learn that your company is paying to have your products tested on animals for marketing in China.

Your company has violated the trust of loyal customers, and you have disrespected consumers like me who have counted on your brand for decades largely because of your cruelty-free policies.

I will no longer be purchasing your products, and I will be sharing this disturbing information with everyone I know.

Sincerely,

[your good self]

It’s on their Avon, Mary Kay, and Estee Lauder Are Paying For Tests On Animals post

Finger crossed: ethics for the win.

UPDATE (2014-05): see also

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