Cosmetics Sector Leads World in Eliminating Animal Testing

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Health Minister Duclos with Darren Praznik Celebrating Passage of Bill to ban animal testing in cosmetics © Courtesy of Cosmetics Alliance Canada

Canada has joined a growing list of over 40 countries to formally ban the use of animal testing for cosmetics and has done so with the urging and active support of a broad coalition that includes the cosmetics industry, animal advocates, scientists, retailers, and consumers.

As one of the first sectors internationally to embrace such legislative bans, the cosmetics industry has been leading the way in the development and use of non-animal alternative methods for safety testing and is providing an example to others as the world moves towards the greater use of animal-free science. Canada has further embraced this direction with the recent modernization of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which now includes provisions that recognize the need to replace, reduce or refine the use of animal testing when assessing the risks of substances.

Since the ban in the European Union some years ago and the significant effort to develop non-animal alternatives, the cosmetics industry has moved away from animal testing, and it has not been used in Canada for a long time. “However,” as the Canadian industry association President Darren Praznik pointed out, “it is still important for Canada to add our name to the list of countries that have legislated a ban to demonstrate our commitment and efforts.”

The road to a legislative ban in Canada was a long and sometimes difficult one. As Praznik noted, “There are many stakeholders in this space with varying levels of understanding of Canadian regulations. Although we may agree on the objective, getting the right legal wording to fit within the existing cosmetic regulatory framework under Canada’s Food & Drugs Act was the real challenge.”

animal testing
© Pexels/Dan Cristian Paduret

It eventually took the coming together of Cosmetics Alliance Canada with Cruelty Free International and their retail partner The Body Shop, and then joined by the Human Society International and their partner Lush, as well as Animal Alliance of Canada, to forge the consensus and strategy that proved to be the winning formula. “A key element,” said Praznik, “was our agreement that the legislation should be drafted by Health Canada based on the principles of the European ban but within the context of the Canadian regulatory framework.” This approach ensured that the legislation would meet the objective, be administratively workable, have the support of Health Canada, and be a Government bill with the certainty of being passed.

With Health Canada doing the drafting and despite delays due to COVID-19, the legislation was finally introduced in Parliament in the spring of 2023. As then Health Minister Jean Yves Duclos stated upon the bill being passed, “Rarely do we see policy changes where everyone is on board. Today is one of those rare days and its worth celebrating.”

A key lesson learned from the cosmetic sector in tackling the use of animal testing is that there must be significant investment by industry, governments, and academia in the development of non-animal methods. The E.U. and industry have already invested upwards of some $1 billion towards this effort. As the cosmetic sector has also learned, developing non-animal methods is but the first step in using them. They must also be accepted by government regulators, which itself can be a challenging process.

To further these efforts, the cosmetic industry internationally initiated the International Collaboration on Cosmetic Safety, which includes industry, trade associations, ingredient suppliers, and animal advocacy organizations. Its purpose is to advance the development of non-animal methods, gain their acceptance by government regulators, and promote education in their use. All three objectives are necessary for success.

In Canada, the Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods at the University of Windsor was established in 2017 under the direction of Dr. Charu Chandrasekera to further these same objectives across all sectors and works closely with the Canadian cosmetics industry.

The cosmetics sector has been one of the first industries to take on the challenges of animal-free testing. It has taken time and effort to develop and validate new methods, work with government regulators, and build trusting relationships with all stakeholders to move forward together—but the cosmetics industry has done it and will continue to lead the development and use of animal-free science!

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Cosmetics Alliance Canada is the leading Canadian trade association representing the cosmetics and personal care products industry.

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