cruelty-free: some comments (4)

UPDATE (2014-05): see also

Continuing along from comments (3)


A company sells their stuff in China? Hang on and don’t panic. Do not immediately assume that a company has caved in, sold out, care more about the Chinese market than the ethical one (worldwide), and are involved in animal testing. Don’t assume that a product, any single product, is being tested on animals just because it’s sold in China (be that during production or afterwards, in China). Don’t assume, either, that every single product made by a company will be subject to animal tests.

Subtleties: not just a matter of a product being sold in China. Not all products sold on the Chinese market have to have been tested on animals (be that by the manufacturer or in Chinese labs). They do, however, all have to satisfy the Chinese legal authorities—just as happens before an import-licence is granted in other jurisdictions, ex. Canada, the EU, or the USA. Avironneur posted up a very useful bit of information, which anyone interested in the selling-in-China question/debate/issue is encouraged to read, reread, reflect upon, dissect, analyse, and generally try to make sense of:


On the other hand: don’t let a company off the hook: they should at least know what happens to their products when they go through the SFDA regulatory process, know what tests are performed on every single product, and be responsible for having this information as part of being responsible for their products (and indeed their brand reputation), at all stages in its life-journey from conception to death, i.e. through to a customer using it.

How the ethical question has changed: the issue is no longer just a company testing ingredients or final products themselves, or having others do that for them, nor the old hat (non-issue, apart from the little matter of honesty and historical accurace) of using ingredients tested on animals by other people in the past. New issue, even less directly linked to the manufacturers: quoth the Ginger one,

[…] with a company being complicit in animal cruelty *after* the MF stage; so: once a product is finished, sent to another country, and sold there. The testing being done not by the original company, but by a third party (in the other country), and this being required by law for you to be able to sell the products there.

From the link Avi posted up [earlier], though, you’ll see that if a product contains ingredients already on the Chinese market, it’s a different ball-game.

More research needed all round (and not from me right now as I’m going to bed shortly and have several long days of work ahead)!

If in doubt, ask a company. Email them. Bug them. If you receive standard stock responses, bug them further. Unless they actually answer your question, properly, fully: keep bugging them. It’s up to the company to prove they’re not doing a Pontius Pilate: washing their hands of their responsibilities as soon as a product lands in China and is turned over to the state authorities there.


“George” asked the clever question: where to personally draw the line, re. companies selling their products on the Chinese market? Yours truly (probably “Timmie the dog” by this stage…):

I’m reserving judgement until I’ve found out, read, digested, etc. more about exactly what does & doesn’t legally require testing in China. Starting with avi’s link above and the documents linked to it.

But–I’m treating this as a matter of trust no-one, do my own research, if in doubt ask companies directly. If I do this with any others, I’ll post up the emails I sent here–feel free to use /tweak them for your own purposes!

There’s also a case just gone to court [a matter of weeks back, now] vs. EL group for misleading consumers (can’t remember if this got discussed on the Green Board, posted about on my b***). That may take a whiiiiiile… but should be interesting to watch.


So: yes indeed, where to draw the line and what to do next? Apologies for slow Ginger thinking here. Definitely “Timmie ” in this investigative adventure.

Suggestion for solution: no-buy (well: DIY, local, etc. only) until 2013

Assuming EU legislation does actually come into force on time, given the European Parliament first voted this in in 2003, the big shift was 2009, and three areas of toxicity testing were given a grace-period (find an in vitro alternative) till 2013 … assuming all that happens… As of 2013, the sale of cosmetics in the EU gets tightened up. Not just that *a product* hasn’t been tested by that company, but *a company* doesn’t test or have any involvement in testing. Products tested on animals (anywhere) won’t be able to sold in Europe. Period.

So if a company doesn’t test but sells its products in a country where animal testing is required by law (China, but also Brazil and–dept. interpretation of “cosmetic”–the USA), and there they have to be tested (right now–and this may change): yes, they can sell their products in the EU right now, but won’t be able to come next year. Knowing a company passes the EU requirements and restructions, or doesn’t, will be useful for consumer decision-making…

How this makes a difference for people outside the EU too: If a company is allowed to sell its products in the EU, you’ll know they’re cruelty free.

So: if you want to check a company’s testing status, see if they sell their stuff (and which specific products, hopefully whatever it is you’re interested in!) in the EU. For a multinational / international company, see if they have (a) separate European website(s) and what’s there. Just like Greenboarders have been doing re. China.

This is of course assuming three unknowns:
(1) that the *full* testing ban will come into effect in 2013 (and not 2014 or some later date)
(2) that it will do so in its current form: the cosmetic industry, especially big multinationals selling on the North American and Asian markets, have been campaigning hard for the legislation to be weakened / adulterted
(3) that companies won’t find a legal loophole to exploit.

Note for pessimism: given previous delays, and companies finding ways around anythign that can be exploited as a legal loophole… I’ll believe it when I see it.

Notes for optimism:
(1) China is investing money in alternative testing methods; I’ve found journal articles from back to 2007 on this.
(2) Some of the companies we’ve been complaining about (EL group) say they’ve been investing in such alternative testing, and co-operating with China in development thereof.

Unknowns: exactly what Chinese law requires, and exactly what it applies to. Anyone know this?

Reason this might be a positive: compare to the USA (which is also frowned on from Europe, as being an animal-testing place). It *is* possible to buy cosmetics in the USA that *have not* been tested on animals. One loophole: using old (historically) ingredients that may have been tested previously (see further: fixed cut-off date policy).

China: further questions: is animal testing only required for new companies, who aren’t yet tried and trusted? is it only required for foreign companies? is it required of *all* of them, all products, all ingredients? for example: could Weleda hypothetically escape the ban beacuse of using formulations a century old, ingredients even older?


Another issue: China vs. Hong Kong. Anyone know the exact legal technicalities, drop me a line, much appreciated!

Thing is, I’m aware there’s different rules Hong Kong vs. rest-of-China: not just the Chemicals Regulation & Inspection Service, Health Administrative Department of the State Council – State Food and Drug Administration, inspection & quarantine on imports, etc… but also government, political rights, economic set-up, all part of HK’s special status.

I don’t know the past history for Lavera, but a number of foreign companies had been already operating in HK before it was handed back to China: ex. The Body Shop.

Here’s a clue on different rules: TBS operates in HK (i.e. imports products from HQ and sells them in their own stores), but does not operate in China:
– they have stores and an online site in Hong Kong (different legislation, plus many of the stores there antedated handover of HK from Britain to China)
– you can buy products from elsewhere and have them shipped to China
– and you can buy them from one store that imports TBS stuff from the UK and sells it in China (but the store,, is not part of TBS).

So one thing to watch out for will be:
– does a company have a base in Hong Kong, from which they do online sales to the rest of China, but no B&M stores in China?

Sorry I keep ending posts with questions–still thinking this one through … looks like it’ll take a fair amount of thinking and researching and asking companies and so on…

The good avi adds here:

Good question – if the distribution is from HK and not from a warehouse in Mainland China then, based on similar circumstances in the US/Canada/EU relationship, one would assume (and perhaps incorrectly) that it would be the HK standards that would apply.

Once distribution starts directly from Mainland China warehouse or a brick and mortar store is established there, I would imagine that the Chinese SFDA requirements become applicable. This may also apply for products produced and labeled for the Mainland China market specifically (Simplified Chinese characters vs. Traditional characters used in Taiwan/HK)

Avene, Clarins, Chanel etc all have distribution channels in Chinese brick and mortar stores as opposed to the TBS sitiuation…..definitely worth finding out this information and establishing the distinction between the two scenarios.

And the good “Julian” also precisifies, just so we’re all clear:

Hong Kong, although now under China, has different laws, different regulations to mainland China. So we can’t assume products sold in HK have been animal tested to be on that market. More investigation is needed into the exact laws in Hong Kong.


Green Board sleuthing and smart lateral-thinking continues:

[“Anne”] checked Amazon China to see what brands are for sale and the results are surprising

[…] And this is just one category. (It seems to work if you type in English search terms.) I do not know how accurate this type if investigation is for determining testing status among companies, but it definitely sends up a red flag for me. More research is needed here though.

Which inspired my few remaining little grey cells to get off their befuddled backsides and do some cogitating:

[…] curiouser and curiouser

Though I’d be wary of avoiding *anything* sold in China, myself, right now, for two reasons:

1) From what I read on the Chinese import & quarantine regulatory body’s site (see avironneur’s post of a few days ago), it’s not the case that *all* foreign products and ingredients are subject to the same tests. 2 categories of products (basically, open-shelf & OTC vs prescription & other more potent active items). Both need confirmation that they’ve been produced in proper conditions–sterile, hygienic, etc. This is normal most places. The second lot require more testing before they can legally be sold, inc the three items (ex toxicology report) for which the standard test is still animal lethal dose (there are other methods, as used elsewhere).
Also, testing not required for ingredients already tried and tested and on the Chinese market.

So: For things like a basic moisturizer or mascara, using ingredients that have been on the Chinese market for ages, this testing would not be required.

2) As is also the case in the USA & EU, there’s an exemption for traditional ingredients & formulations (inc taking into account foreign–non-Chinese–approved / authoritarive bodies of knowledge, ex USP & BP).

In the Lavera case , I do wonder if a company simply has to hand over a product and it’s formula, and it’s then over to the authorized Chinese lab to perform whatever tests they deem necessary–might be lots on lots of animals, might be none at all!–and all the foreign company (ex Lavera) sees & knows at the end of the day is: getting a certificate and permission to sell a given product. Or not. The China factor aside: this is a state bureaucratic process. I would hazard a guess that the process is far from transparent … based on, as a foreigner, having had experience aplenty of centralized non-transparent process. In places like Canada, the US, and assorted European countries (including my home countries). And these places are, shall we say, usually seen as being (politically, structurally, culturally) more transparent…


Also, the following thing occurred to me: There’s another and much simpler reason to test imports: especially expensive ones, and ones (ex anti-ageing magic potions) claiming scientific innovations and new ingredients. Get the ingredient list, formula (which must be exact, to show good production standards), and product samples.

Really simple.

Enables the production of a cheap knock-off. Its sale on the domestic market. And then its sale abroad. Really smart way to get round patent law. Sure, try to sell it in the original MF’s home market and the lawsuits will start; but they take time, and meanwhile you rake it in and are, of course, untouchable on your own home market. And let’s not forget the size and growth-rate of the Chinese domestic market!

No idea, of course, how close to or far from the mark that is. Pure conjecture. Just hypothesizing. Imagining how I’d think, plan, and act were I in CIG, FDA, or similar shoes… probably says more about me than it does about anyone else, and I come out of it cynical, manipulative, abusive, money-grubbing, corrupt, and thoroughly vicious. Probably just as well I’m not in a position of influence, let alone power. I mean, combine that with my irresponsibility, ability to be side-tracked, facetiousness, frivolity, and general folly: would be disastrous. Fortunately, I’m just a humble wee blogger and in my non-spare-time I mainly deal with words. Harmless. 😉



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