The Truth About: Animal Testing In Cosmetics (And The Leaping Bunny Symbol)

There’s simply no excuse for hurting or killing an animal in the development of a new lipstick. One of the most frequent questions I get from readers after featuring a new product or brand is ‘but do they test on animals?’ It seems that despite huge legislative change, we’re still a little confused about what is legal and illegal when it comes to animal testing in the cosmetics industry; with some brands still making a song and dance about being ‘cruelty free’ it confuses consumers into thinking others still do cover bunnies in shampoo to make sure they get the lather just right. Although some elements are black and white, there are a lot of grey areas which confuse and concern consumers to the point where they don’t know what to buy. So here’s the truth about animal testing, and why the Leaping Bunny symbol is more important than ever.

In March 2013 a new EU law was fully implemented that made it illegal to sell animal-tested cosmetics in Europe, even if the testing was conducted outside Europe. This sales ban made it clear that animal testing is unacceptable and immoral in today’s society, with so many superior, cheaper and more effective alternatives now available to companies around the world. The 2013 ban was the culmination of a vigorous and long-standing public campaign against animal-tested cosmetics (critically not just for finished products but also for their ingredients.) Until this point (after a 2009 update to the law) tests were banned in Europe, but products tested elsewhere could still be imported. Put simply, right now no product sold in the UK will have been tested on animals – and nor will the ingredients featured within it.

So why is there so much confusion? Although companies can’t sell animal-tested cosmetics in Europe, they can continue to test cosmetics on animals outside Europe and sell them in other markets. Many large emerging territories, including the hugely controversial Chinese market, are still demanding that cosmetics be tested on animals in the ‘interests of safety’. So your favourite lipstick brand may be refusing to test their ingredients or finished products on animals within the European Union, but if they’re selling in China then they’re definitely testing somewhere along the line. Outside of the EU it’s still not against the law to test on animals, with countries including the US, Israel, Brazil and Korea still frequently testing ingredients and end products on our fluffy friends. That’s where the confusion crops in and where consumers struggle for clarification.

Some horrendous practices take place that involve force feeding, rubbing chemicals on skin, dripping substances into eyes and technique called ‘lethal dose’ that involves forcing animals to eat a certain amount of a toxic chemical until it kills them. It’s just not acceptable to conduct experiments like this in the name of beauty, but legislative change is notoriously slow. What’s even worse is that animal testing is still common place for household and cleaning products; beauty companies often have a sister branch that produce these kind of products, meaning that there’s no guarantee that a brand making your favourite perfume won’t still be testing their air freshener on a guinea pig. It’s all well and good shouting about your ‘cruelty free’ pledge, but if your parent company is still conducting the very experiments you’re claiming to campaign against then it doesn’t stand for much. 

There’s also rather large loophole which goes by the name of REACH. The European Commission (EC) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) are insisting on testing the chemicals used in cosmetics for which there’s a possibility of workforce exposure during manufacturing processes. This means that even though the brand may want to abide by the 2013 legislation and stop animal testing completely, they’re often being forced to test ingredients anyway. If there’s a chance the guy in the factory could be exposed to a raw ingredient when making your mascara, then that ingredient still needs to be tested in order to be put on sale. I’ve tried to research into this and it’s ridiculously hard to find out any information that’s consumer friendly; unfortunately the only way to be completely sure that you aren’t indirectly supporting animal testing is to continue to purchase products only from companies that display the Leaping Bunny symbol.

The ‘Leaping Bunny’ symbol is the only globally recognised guarantee that a brand has made a genuine commitment to ending animal testing for its products. Certified companies must meet rigorous criteria, including independent audits that check the entire supply chain, before they’re allowed to display the logo on their products. Brands including Paul Mitchell, Liz Earle, The Body Shop and Burt’s Bees all carry the stamp of approval, but many others are making up their own in order to pull the wool over consumers eyes and give the impression of an ethical operation. It’s the most confusing area of the beauty industry, not helped by the levels of contradictory legislation that make it hard for brands and consumers alike. Although the majority of brands currently within my portfolio don’t carry the Leaping Bunny mark (click here for more info and to find out what it looks like,) the research into the topic has made me much more aware of those that do.

Your purchasing decisions are your own and the level by which you’re prepared to compromise is also your own. I’m not one to tell you what’s right and wrong, what you should and shouldn’t be doing; it’s your decision to make based on the evidence presented and your attitudes towards it. Unfortunately it’s not as clean cut as deciding not to use products that are tested on animals, when there are so many loopholes and grey areas that brands often have no choice but to abide by. The important thing is to understand as much as possible and celebrate those companies that are going above and beyond to keep our fluffy friends safe from harm. I hope this post has gone a little way in helping you to achieve that…

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  1. abigailalicex
    July 21, 2015 / 10:11 am

    This is such a great and important post. I'm not too sure how many of my products are made outside the EU but I'd be very interested to find out.

  2. Louise
    July 21, 2015 / 11:07 am

    Great post! I always try to be vigilant, as a lover of all animals, fluffy or not, but as you say it's so difficult to find out clear information. I've been pretty good at discovering great companies who do body/cleansing/pampering type products that I love. but cosmetics is tricky- who are your favourites!?!

    • Hayley Carr
      July 29, 2015 / 8:38 am

      I love Paul Mitchell & Neals Yard, but it's so hard to navigate. I've no doubt a huge number of brands I use are shadily undertaking practices I wouldn't like elsewhere in the world.

  3. Zoe Newlove
    July 21, 2015 / 11:33 am

    Well this cleared up my comment from yesterday's post. Thanks lovely. A really insightful and necessary post! Zoe Newlove Beauty Blogger & MUA

    • Hayley Carr
      July 29, 2015 / 8:39 am

      Thanks Zoe! Glad it was interesting.

  4. Pam Scalfi
    July 21, 2015 / 12:44 pm

    thank you for clarifying. Lots of brands tell us tehy are testing free, bla bla bla, but I only believe it when I see the little logo. How can anyone do something so cruel to these beautiful creatures in the name of beauty.Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

  5. Betty Button Pie
    July 21, 2015 / 1:23 pm

    Thank you for posting this! I think many people (myself included) just assume that all companies now-a-days do not carry out animal testing for their products but unfortunately do 🙁 Always check for the bunny!!Ashlie

    • Hayley Carr
      July 29, 2015 / 8:39 am

      There's such a lack of clarity. Unfortunately only a small number of brands have the bunny, although so many say they're 'cruelty free' – it's marketing gumph most of the time.

  6. Caroline Innes
    July 21, 2015 / 1:45 pm

    Something to think about – thanks for explaining this one, I'll definitely be taking this into account when I go beauty shopping next!

  7. Anonymous
    July 21, 2015 / 1:51 pm

    Call me ignorant but I honestly didn't know some of these horrific things were happening to our lovely animals 🙁 This post has definitely opened my eyes to what happens behind the scenes so to speak.

    • Hayley Carr
      July 29, 2015 / 8:40 am

      I don't think you're ignorant at all – I think it's an industry wide problem that we're just not aware of, because they don't want us to be.

  8. Anca
    July 21, 2015 / 2:16 pm

    It should be easy to access the information regarding testing and how the things are made. And then, the customers can make an informed decision, but sadly is not the case. Your post is really helpful.

  9. Teen Diary
    July 21, 2015 / 2:28 pm

    Love everything about this post. It's such an important subject nowadays and I'm glad it's being brought up. Those animals suffer so much and companies who continue to use them with so many alternatives out there should definitely be boycotted, in my opinion at least.

  10. Mademoiselle Lala
    July 21, 2015 / 4:11 pm

    I still remember Urban Decay trying to venture into Chinese market and global outrage. They've thankfully abandoned the idea. As a long-time supporter of the ban I just cannot imagine how some countires can justify testing "atrocieties" by saying it's for our good since animals are have completely different skin/hair/allergy reactions to humans.

    • Hayley Carr
      July 29, 2015 / 8:41 am

      I remember that too. Unfortunately a lot of these big companies chase the hugely appealing Chinese market because it's an absolute goldmine. But thankfully a lot are choosing ethics over profit right now – I hope that continues.

  11. Stephanie Hartley
    July 21, 2015 / 4:32 pm

    This post is so helpful! I had no clue that any of that legislation was in place. Definitely going to be on the lookout for the leaping bunny symbol from now onSteph –

  12. Martha Edwards
    July 21, 2015 / 10:56 pm

    So nice to see such a huge and inspirational blogger shedding some light on this issue 🙂 xMartha Jane |

    • Hayley Carr
      July 29, 2015 / 8:42 am

      Thanks Martha! Appreciate your kind words.

  13. Anonymous
    July 22, 2015 / 8:35 am

    Thank you for this post. I wasn't aware about sister companies being able to test on animals for a different product. Thank you for your blog as a whole! Everything you write is so well written and so informative. You can see that you put so much work into researching and producing posts like these 🙂

    • Hayley Carr
      July 29, 2015 / 8:41 am

      Thank you! That's so kind of you to say and means a lot.

  14. Cruelty Free Kitty
    July 22, 2015 / 2:21 pm

    I agree with so much of this! :)One minor thing. You mention Isreal as still testing on animals frequently, but Isreal banned animal testing. Otherwise great post!

  15. littlemissstyleguru
    July 30, 2015 / 2:00 am

    Great blog Hayley omg i have had this argument a few times with people litterally coming onto my youtube or facebook and calling me a murdering cow for using makeup that is tested on animals etc aghhh,at the end of the day yes i prob do,and although of course i care,i as one person can't stop this from happening and in the end i have to block the people,one day i was saying back things like you have said,what do you wash your hair with or clean your house with etc,even electrical items they have to test the current of electricity on animals and what about glue that sticks or furnature togther?,it goes above and beyond makeup.I wish it all could be free from harming any poor animal but so do our drugs get tested on animals and ok that's not a beauty thing and that saves lives etc,but i'm just pointing out that i have had no end of hate through this aghhhh,thanks for this post xx♥xx

    • lucy_amatorka
      August 20, 2015 / 5:07 pm

      You, as a single person, can do a lot. You can boycott companies like Loreal, and vote with your money and support those that choose ethics. And there are plenty of them. You can find lists in the internet 🙂

  16. Ayelet
    July 30, 2015 / 7:40 pm

    Just spent a good amount of time on the Leaping Bunny site – wonderful piece for raising awareness! It's great to know there are so many other brands to choose from.

  17. Catherine
    August 3, 2015 / 8:40 am

    Wow, I have gotten complacent about buying products and I genuinely thought all cosmetics were animal friendly now. This article saddens me deeply… Thank you for writing it though, we need to make more noise and get this message out.

  18. Sciencekoekje
    August 13, 2015 / 6:09 am

    I really appreciated your article. I am a scientist and have therefore come into contact with animal testing quite a bit and it still drives me nuts when people write about this issue without informing themselves. When i still see people asking to write protest letters to the government to forbid beauty products tested on animals in an EU country i get mad because this activism should be directed to where it can actually make a difference. If you want to protest then inform yourself first.Outside of beauty and a completely different cup of tea is the pharma industry and the unfortunately sometimes necessary animal testing. I have a license to conduct animal testing and had to learn all the legislation involved in the process. I can tell you that those animals are getting treated a lot better then 95% of the animals ending up on your plate to eat. And i still think that one mouse sacrificed to help the survival of thousands of humans is a way better justification then killing a chicken so we can eat chicken wings for a day.Saying that, i hate animal testing and i hated whenever i even had to kill as much as a mouse, so i try to stick to cell lines wherever i can.

  19. Anonymous
    November 19, 2015 / 10:35 am

    Great post. Cosmetic animal testing isn't really understood by cruelty free / vegan people. The loopholes, such as companies using ingredients not initially intended for cosmetic products and REACH aren't widely known.

    March 28, 2017 / 8:12 am

    The following issue drives me nuts when people write about this problem without informing themselves. How cruel it is to test animals! Cosmetic animal testing isn't really understood by me, I am even not a vegan!

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