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What does the reversal of the ban on animal tests for cosmetics mean for UK beauty

Sophie Smith
09 May 2023

Cruelty Free International has lost a high court challenge over allegations that the government “secretly” abandoned the ban on testing cosmetic product ingredients on animals.

Described by PETA, animal testing is the "practice of performing often painful experiments on animals held captive in laboratory settings, with the belief that the results will be applicable to humans".

The types of animals used in animal testing include large numbers of mice, rats and fish, as well as smaller numbers of rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and dogs.

Animal testing for makeup or its ingredients had been banned in the UK since 1998.

However, in a letter sent to Cruelty Free International in 2021, the Home Office admitted that has allowed animal testing for cosmetics in the UK.

Documents disclosed in the court proceedings in January then revealed for the first time that the Home Office "secretly" abandoned the ban in 2019.

The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman MP, argued that she was bound by a law originating in the European Union to authorise such tests. This law outlines that companies need to test some ingredients used in cosmetics on animals to ensure they were safe for workers manufacturing the ingredients.

The judge was critical of the way the Home Office had conducted itself in the Judicial Review, according to Cruelty Free International. However, the actions were not ruled as unlawful.

He agreed with the Home Office’s interpretation of the EU legislation but said that that did not stop the UK having a policy prohibiting cosmetics testing on animals.


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The government's decision has been criticised by a number of beauty businesses, including The Body Shop, Unilever and Dove.

In a recent statement, The Body Shop said: "We are deeply concerned to hear that the ruling in the UK High Court means that the ban was effectively lifted in 2019, under the radar.

"We join our long-standing partner Cruelty Free International in calling for the government to reinstate the ban immediately.

"Allowing animal testing for cosmetics in the UK is a devastating blow to the millions of people who have supported campaigns to end this appalling practice for nearly 35 years.

"So, the fight continues and we will campaign vigorously, as our late founder Dame Anita Roddick did, for as long as it takes."

Cruelty Free International said it would appeal the decision by the high court and call on the government to reinstate the policy ban.

Michelle Thew, CEO of Cruelty Free International, said: "It is outrageous that the government has abandoned the ban on using animals in cosmetics testing, and did so in secret while giving the impression that the policy remained in place.

"Documents the Home Office was forced to disclose in the case show clearly that it was prioritising the interests of contract-testing companies over those of animals and the wishes of the vast majority of British people who are strongly opposed to cosmetics testing.

“It has never been more important to fight for animals dying in the name of beauty in UK laboratories.”

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