Weleda update

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: 2014-04-27…

Original update:

These guys are definitely in my Good Books. I’m not posting up the full and very courteous and honest reply I received, just two shorts excerpts and the official policy document that came attached. My reply came from a “corporate communications manager” for the Weleda group. Titles / job descriptions like that tend to raise my hackles. Never mind my anti-bureaucratic, anti-BS/NewSpeak, and anti-kleptocratic prejudices: it is rare to receive such a full and detailed reply: other companies, take note. Boxes ticked:

  • answered the questions asked
  • didn’t just copy and paste a canned answer given to all enquiries
  • didn’t just respond to the first keyword spotted rather than reading the whole bloody question
  • was written well and elegantly, a pleasure to read

Message to other companies that consider themselves ethical, responsible, and so on: here’s how it’s done to the highest standard. In my humble and doubtless highly prejudiced opinion. Here is one excerpt from the email (note: “cosmetic” here isn’t used in the sense of “cosmetics / make-up” but in the more technical sense of “not a medically-necessary treatment”; so it includes skincare, bath stuff, baby skincare, men’s skin and shaving and grooming products, toothpaste, deodorant, and other toiletries) :

[…] China: This has always been a very small business for us, managed from our headquarters in Switzerland. There are some cosmetics that do not require animal testing in Mainland China, but we also had an unfortunate experience with three of our products there that were tested on animals without our knowledge. For some time, there were different views within the company as to what to do with these three products. They are now being withdrawn from the Mainland. Please see the statement on our sales in Mainland China that I have attached here for additional details.

Here’s the aforementioned statement, which you’ll see had been neatly, succinctly, and pretty accurately summarized:

UPDATE (2014-04-27): I’m guessing that Weleda received a fair number of enquiries similar to mine, enough to merit composing that standard response. I am not the only person to have received it. On the other hand, it’s simply a declaration of official company policy; and at least it’s being communicated openly; and at least my email did receive (a) a response, that (b) actually responded to each point raised.

I’ve tempered my enthusiasm and praise; certainly, their response was a good one compared to other companies; but I don’t think for a minute that they dealt with my query any more attentively than anyone else’s, or that they care any more or less about one individual. Do bear in mind that this is a company, and their main purpose in life is being a business, staying that way, continuing, growing, and turning a profit. Yes, good customer relations don’t hurt. But that’s all they–and individuals like me–are: customers. Do not confuse relations (international, PR, etc.) with relationships. That way madness (or marketing) lies.

Sceptical note aside, back to the original update…

BACK TO THE ORIGINAL UPDATE

Another comment, on another excerpt:

[…] We could adopt the Leaping Bunny seal or similar seals for our personal care products, but so far, we have decided not to do so because we are afraid that this may cause confusion, since we market our pharmaceuticals under the same brand. […]

Weleda use alternative testing methods wherever possible (= in practical terms almost always), including on human subjects. And remember, we’re talking medicaments here. Wherever you may stand on homeopathy and anthroposophy—myself, I’m more in the QuackWatch and Bad Science camp here—these guys are testing them to standard medical, well, standards. We’re NOT talking cosmetic products (for skin, hair, teeth). I’ve been such a volunteer myself, from the early 1990s onwards, both for cosmetic and for medical products: I did this in Europe, for several testing labs and brands. (You know, putting your money where your mouth is on animal testing!) See, there’s a basic giant flaw in “cruelty-free” labels given out by the Leaping Bunny campaign and suchlike. Black-and-white lumping together of all products is a flawed idea: especially when failing to distinguish between

  • cosmetic products: personal care, skincare, hair care, plus decorative cosmetics i.e. makeup: all a matter of choice, for appearances, unnecessary / not for necessary for survival, and more or less for vanity
    vs.
  • medical products: necessary, and indeed not forgetting that this category includes medical products FOR OTHER ANIMALS TOO. (Some products otherwise considered “cosmetic” may count as “medical,” depending on the individual and condition at hand: ex. necessary for mental health reasons.)

So we’re back to the drawing-board: I’ll keep consulting the Leaping Bunny lists, but I’ll also keep asking companies directly. In the case of Weleda, they’ve taken the bold step (or given the finger to upstart relative newcomers to the ethical product game…) by putting their own principles and production methods and standards above others’ criteria, which may (see the EWG for another example) be as driven as much—or more—by kow-towing to consumer pressure, as by research and reason; open to fear-mongering and mass hysteria; through putting quantity (of consumers and of their money) above quality (and sense and truth). Think about this in political terms—as this is like anything else in life an issue that is either directly or indirectly (via consequences and repercussions) one that is political and social as well as ethical—that approach is not democratic: it is tyrannical, a dictatorship of the masses, idiocracy guided more or less discreetly by manipulation from above and outside (marketing, advertising, other strategic agencies).

Democracy isn’t just voting, a right to vote, one vote per person, and each vote counting equally. Look it up. Then go read John Stuart Mill, Karl Popper, and Isaiah Berlin. For starters.

I’ve said it before, I’m sure I’ll say it again: truth is not something that gets voted on.

I’m rather relieved: I’ve been a lifelong fan of Weleda, having had their stuff used on me even when a babe in arms. I’m a third-generation user. It would be good to be able to continue with them. Even though I disapprove and get sniffy about loyalty to old solid “heritage” brands, such as appear regularly in “Britain’s Most Trusted” lists and suchlike: it’s heartening to see that there’s a counter to Ponds, Johnson & Johnson, Olay, and the like.

6 comments

  1. anna3101

    Not all medical products have to be tested on animals – so if only I have the possibility (like in cases of bad cold, dermatological problems etc), I prefer to buy from small pharmaceutical companies producing only medicines not tested on animals.

    And as for Weleda, I would prefer to buy from a company that produces only cosmetics and does no testing at all rather than the one who produces several groups of products and has to do animal testing.

    • gingerama

      Yes, that’s true, but that’s not the point here. Weleda aren’t a general-purpose compounding pharmacy with cosmetics (i.e. everything that’s not medically-necessary) as a side-line: Boots would be a good example of that, historically but still today. We’re not talking about medical treatments for colds (which are viral anyway, and either go away–hopefully with thanks to a decent immune system–or you die).

      Weleda have two peculiarities:

      (1) holistic: like Dr.Hauschka and other older eco brands, treating the whole body as a whole: this means there will be skincare with therapeutic properties (hence adding scents), and treatment products that include traditional medical ingredients (ex. soothing bath stuff with chamomile). So the distinction between medical and cosmetic becomes blurry. The life-and-death vs. optional/decorative distinction is still there, though.

      (2) Whether you use Weleda medicaments or not will depend, amongst other things, on what condition you suffer from that requires treatment. The Weleda medicines I’ve used have not required animal testing, as they count (for EU regulatory purposes) as “traditional medicine”: the Calendula ointment, the Arnica one, the Euphrasia drops. The same is true for almost all their treatments (the exception follows in the next paragraph), and indeed, with myriad other brands, for cough syrups and lozenges and suchlike based on traditionally-used ingredients (ex. Olbas, and various honey-based ones). Going back to the usually-not-life-theatening common cold.

      But how about Weleda’s cancer treatment, Iscador? What if you’d tried everything out there and nothing worked, and this was a last resort? What if other treatments had intolerable (or indeed more dangerous) side-effects? What if, as with any other medicine, using this was a matter of life or death, and there was no other option? That medicament, as it’s not in the registry of traditional remedies, DOES count as innovative and therefore requiring animal testing.

      I should emphasize that I am NOT a believer in anthroposophic medicine. But I know of cases where it (Iscador specifically) has worked, where people are alive (or lived longer, if say they were older) because of it, people who would otherwise be dead. (Note also that this is not a catch-all treatment; cancers vary; all treatment should be in consultation with a proper qualified doctor and under strict medical supervision; etc.)

      • anna3101

        Sometimes medicine is the only way to go, anthroposophic or not, and I agree with you on this. And I could accept the idea of some (minimal) animal testing done in the case of life-saving meds, if those animals would be treated humanely and not like a live piece of junk. However, I don’t know what kind of animal testing Weleda does and how it goes, and I highly doubt it’s a painless one. Plus, most probably it’s subcontracted, which makes it even worse as it’s rather out of their control. That is why I prefer a company producing cosmetics only, certified under BDIH or other reliable cert and knowing my hard-earned money goes to someone who does no testing at all.

        Some people don’t accept the idea of any animal testing – neither in case of cosmetics nor in case of medicines. For those people, Weleda would not be the choice, so I think it would be good if it was stated clearly on their site that they do have the kinds of medicine that have to be tested.

  2. Pingback: Proefdiervrij: Het Vervolg | Lauriekoek

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