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No Cruel Cosmetics

History of the ban – a long-fought road to victory

In 1973 we brought the use of animals in cosmetics tests to the UK public attention for the first time, encouraging people to shop cruelty-free. This was followed up by our popular ‘Choose Cruelty Free’ campaign in the 1980s, with our campaign bus which travelled the country on a national tour to spread the word.

In 1990, we recognised the importance of working at a European level to achieve our objective to end cosmetics animal testing. We established the European Coalition to End Cosmetics Tests on Animals (now the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments – ECEAE) with our colleagues in Europe specifically to call for a ban on the cruel use of animals to test cosmetics in Europe. This set in motion a high-profile campaign across Europe, symbolised by the iconic Spitting Image designed larger-than-life laboratory rabbit Vanity, and widely regarded as one of the most successful European lobbying campaigns ever. Vanity and her European cousins toured throughout the UK, Denmark, France, Belgium and the Netherlands meeting politicians and attracting a huge amount of public attention to our campaign.

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9th November 1991 was an historic day in the campaign – we organised a rally at the Place de la Monnaie in Brussels which was attended by members of the ECEAE with a thousand BUAV supporters arriving in coaches across the Channel. The march was the highlight of two years of intensive political and public campaigning, and culminated in a free concert with folk-rock band The Levellers.

A year later, in 1992, the European Parliament took an historic decision and voted to end cosmetics tests on animals throughout the European Community. However, the campaign suffered a number of setbacks – thanks in part to the powerful cosmetics industry which was vehemently opposed to any proposal for a ban at the time. On 3rd November 1993 the European Council of Ministers rejected the European Parliament and Commission proposal to effectively ban the marketing of cosmetics products and ingredients tested on animals after 1st January 1998.  It was to take almost 20 years of hard campaigning by the BUAV and ECEAE to finally achieve this in 2013.

Our campaign was supported by The Body Shop who in 1996 presented a petition containing 4 million signatures to the European Commission.   

Over the years our campaign to end cosmetics tests on animals has attracted large amounts of support from the public, politicians, and celebrities alike: Sir Paul McCartney, Jude Law, Joanna Lumley, Helen Mirren, Ricky Gervais, Sienna Miller, Jenny Seagrove, Annie Lennox, Chrissie Hynde, Morrissey, Joss Stone, Dannii Minogue, Kimberley Wyatt, Sadie Frost, Jodie Kidd, Richard Briers, Andrew Sachs, Gillian Taylforth, Alexei Sayle, Toyah Wilcox, and Meg Matthews have all lent their support.

To help consumers make a truly cruelty-free choice, in 1997 a coalition of international animal protection organisations, including the BUAV, launched the Humane Cosmetics Standard, symbolised by our Leaping Bunny logo which continues to certify brands to this day.  Now, almost 500 cosmetics and household product companies are approved as free from animal testing.

In the UK, there was to be a sea-change in 1997 with the advent of the New Labour government which, thanks to BUAV lobbying whilst they were in opposition, finally banned animal testing for cosmetics in the UK. Following this, a ban was finally negotiated in the European Union in February 2003 which saw a phased approach agreed. The first stage was implemented on 11th March 2009, when the 7th amendment to the Cosmetics Directive brought into force two bans, and it became illegal to test cosmetic ingredients on animals anywhere in the EU and to sell or import into the EU any ingredients to be used in cosmetics tested on animals after that date. However, three types of animal tests were exempt from this until March 2013 in order to allow non-animal alternatives to be validated.

However, in 2011 it became clear that the European Commission’s scientists were set to recommend delaying the final part of the ban for up to ten years to allow alternatives to be developed. The BUAV and ECEAE immediately launched our No Cruel Cosmetics campaign and set about making the case for the ban. With the support of politicians, cruelty-free cosmetics companies, celebrities, quarter of a million concerned citizens and our ground-breaking report challenging the European Commission’s assumption of the necessity of animal testing for cosmetics and detailing the alternative approaches available, Europe has listened and the ban is set to come into force in March 2013 as promised!

It has been quite a journey to reach this final conclusion in Europe, but for us the story certainly does not end here. Shockingly over 80% of the world still allows animal testing for cosmetics. So in 2012 the BUAV took the decision to launch Cruelty Free International to repeat our success in Europe across the world.  Countries including Israel are already stepping up and banning animal testing for cosmetics – and with the drive of our new global organisation we aim to create a world free of animal testing for cosmetics.