the EU goes cruelty-free (sort of)

official EU document on the animal-testing-ban legislative process

(click image for link to the European Commission Formal & Official Image)

That is to say: as of today (and in shops, as of a.s.a.p.) there is a new Age of Enlightenment in Europe. Of sorts. Yes, there will be caveats and temperings and practicalities and so on; no, the western Old World has not turned into a new Eden, vegan utopian paradise, and home for all to live together in happy harmony. Here’s what *is* the case:

There is new EU legislation banning animal testing on cosmetic products, which has been a very long time in the coming. The campaigns have been going for generations. I first became aware of them c/o The Body Shop and the British Union Against Vivisection (BUAV) in the early 1980s. That would probably be around about the time the joint campaign by TBS and Cruelty-Free International started up.
(That link is the main one: to the European Commission main “from the horse’s mouth” information.)

That is to say: a ban on the import and sale of animal-tested cosmetic products and ingredients. In the EU. (Reuters press release, 2013-02-21)

Here’s the press release from (the official website of the European Union): “Full EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics enters into force” (2013-03-11); it refers back to the aforementioned main European Commission page:

Today the last deadline to phase out animal testing for cosmetic products in Europe enters into force. As of today, cosmetics tested on animals cannot be marketed any more in the EU.

A Communication adopted by the Commission today confirms the Commission’s commitment to respect the deadline set by Council and Parliament in 2003 and outlines how it intends to further support research and innovation in this area while promoting animal welfare world-wide.

European Commissioner in charge of Health & Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg, stated: “Today’s entry into force of the full marketing ban gives an important signal on the value that Europe attaches to animal welfare. The Commission is committed to continue supporting the development of alternative methods and to engage with third countries to follow our European approach. This is a great opportunity for Europe to set an example of responsible innovation in cosmetics without any compromise on consumer safety.”

The Commission has thoroughly assessed the impacts of the marketing ban and considers that there are overriding reasons to implement it. This is in line with what many European citizens believe firmly: that the development of cosmetics does not warrant animal testing.

The quest to find alternative methods will continue as full replacement of animal testing by alternative methods is not yet possible. The Communication published today outlines the Commission’s contribution to the research into alternative methods and the recognition that these efforts must be continued. The Commission has made about EUR 238 million available between the years 2007 and 2011 for such research. The cosmetics industry has contributed as well, for example by co-funding the SEURAT1 research initiative with EUR 25 million.

The leading and global role of Europe in cosmetics requires reaching out to trading partners to explain and promote the European model and to work towards the international acceptance of alternative methods. The Commission will make this an integral part of the Union’s trade agenda and international cooperation.


Directive 2003/15/EC introduced provisions in relation into animal testing into the Cosmetic Directive 76/768/EEC. Accordingly, animal testing in the Union is already prohibited since 2004 for cosmetic products and since 2009 for cosmetic ingredients (‘testing ban’). As from March 2009, it is also prohibited to market in the Union cosmetic products containing ingredients which have been tested on animals (‘marketing ban’). For the most complex human health effects (repeated-dose toxicity, including skin sensitisation and carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity and toxicokinetics) the deadline for the marketing ban was extended to 11 March 2013.

As also reported by the BBC News (and therefore makes it news; you may debate this statement in the comments further down…).

Here is what the BUAV and a couple of others have to say about it:

My own $0.02:

  1. (or, $0.01) Being of a sceptical and cynical persuasion, I’ll wait to see what happens. I suspect it may be several months at the earliest before we see genuinely new stock that is genuinely cruelty-free appearing on shelves. As others have said, and as I’ve said before there are loopholes and they may well be exploited: including companies separating out their European branch from others for other markets around the world; and some labs may continue to test on animals, but products relabelled as medical rather than cosmetic. Which may make them prescription drugs. And, either way (buying stuff from a non-EU branch of a company, and/or as a prescription product) may make them more expensive. Also, it will be very interesting indeed to see who gets the EU finding for alternative research. That will be a whole other can of worms.
    See also: further previous discussion here on The Praise of Folly on cruelty-free-ness.
  2. (or, a second $0.01) dear BUAV, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE join me in my campaign to USE HYPHENS PROPERLY IN ENGLISH. See for example the compound adjective “cruelty-free” vs. “cruelty, free.” See for further details Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss. Just to show that the problem is not exclusive to the English language:

But back to business. From that aforementioned main European Commission page, well heck, here’s most of the information copy-pasted for your viewing pleasure straight off it:

Regulatory context

The Cosmetics Directive provides the regulatory framework for the phasing out of animal testing for cosmetics purposes. It establishes a prohibition to test finished cosmetic products and cosmetic ingredients on animals (testing ban), and a prohibition to market in the European Union finished cosmetic products and ingredients included in cosmetic products which were tested on animals for cosmetics purposes (marketing ban). The same provisions are contained in the Cosmetics Regulation, which replaces the Cosmetics Directive as of 11 July 2013.

The testing ban on finished cosmetic products applies since 11 September 2004; the testing ban on ingredients or combination of ingredients applies since 11 March 2009.

The marketing ban applies since 11 March 2009 for all human health effects with the exception of repeated-dose toxicity, reproductive toxicity and toxicokinetics. For these specific health effects the marketing ban applies since 11 March 2013, irrespective of the availability of alternative non-animal tests.

Timetablepdf(171 KB) for phasing out of animal testing

Documents related to animal testing:

Review of the 2013 Implementation Deadline of the Marketing Ban

[go to the main page to read this… just so you can see that yes, this may look kinda sorts bureaucratic, but that’s how a proper democratic process works, with full consultation. Even though, yes, it took a long time. ]

Commission Communication – 11 March 2013

On 11 March 2013 the Commission finalized the review process by adopting a Commission Communication to the European Parliament and the Council, which confirms the Commission’s commitment to maintain the 2013 deadline and outlines how it intends to further support research and innovation in this area while promoting animal welfare world-wide. The ECVAM 2013 Technical Report provides in addition a more detailed overview of progress made in the development of alternatives.

  • Commission Communication on the animal testing and marketing ban and on the state of play in relation to alternative methods in the field of cosmetics. English textpdf
  • ECVAM Technical Report 2013 – soon available here

The adoption of the Commission Communication was announced in a press release and additional background information was provided in a Questions and Answers  document.

The Commission Communication was accompanied by an Impact Assessment, which consists of:


    • gingerama

      good and useful: thanks for bringing it up! it also echoes some of the points/arguments made on here a while back re. the China situation.

      Though my hackles were raised by the whole “red tape,” “confused?” “for those of you a tad mystified” stuff, smacking as it does of over-simplification, patronizing, anti-knowledge-and-intelligence, and teetering on the verge of the borderlands of idiocracy… things muchly disapproved of and frowned upon over here in Folly-praising-land… but that aside: basically good and useful and gets a happy smiley face from me.


  1. gingerama

    sorry to sound a bit grumpy, but this is called doing things by the book, democratically, legally, properly; I get very irked by that being called “red tape” and “bureaucratic.” This is also how the EU manages to assure better consumer protection, information, and consumer rights, amidst other democratic rights that citizens of a free open society enjoy.

    As contrasted with, let’s see, the FDA and the rôle of lobbyists in the American legislative. Which, as a European (and amongst other things a Brit) I find heinous, reprehensible, and totally undemocratic, illiberal, antisocial, non-transparent, etc.

    Sure, all systems have their flaws; my current country Canada too (though in most respects it’s closer to the EU in political ethos); but one of the ways to ensure these positives is to have checks and balances and *complication* and *complexity* in government (government including, as we see here, its legislative wing). If things are simple, there’s something wrong. Totalitarian dictatorship is, after all, as simple as it gets. If things are simplistic, worse still. That means there’s further layers of propaganda, re-education, and brainwashing happening.

    See further, for example, the main item from the European Commission site.

    And, for a great rapid run-down on how EU law works, see here on the site.
    EU law: that is, a cornerstone of a political entity that was set up, you’ll recall, as an important, enlightened, optimistic experiment in the aftermath of World War II–akin to the great optimistic utopian experiment that was the UN, with its great utopian keystone, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  2. Angelica Castro (Iris Voyance)

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both educative
    and engaging, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head.

    The issue is something that too few folks are speaking intelligently about.
    I’m very happy I stumbled across this during my search for something concerning this.


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