Animal testing labelling

Can you trust a cosmetic company's claims that its products aren't tested on animals? If it sells them in China, possibly not.
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03.Conflicting claims

CHOICE believes information should be available so those who want to choose products which aren’t tested on animals can do so.

Many consumers are strongly opposed to animal testing and CHOICE believes information should be available so those who want to choose products which aren’t tested on animals can do so.

Unfortunately, our market survey found consumers’ ability to make informed decisions is being jeopardised by confusing claims, such as "against animal testing".

Companies selling cosmetics in China knowingly provide samples for animal testing. In defending its position, Avon claims its “commitment is to remain in the countries affected and work to bring about change, such as the acceptance of non-animal testing methods. Abandoning a market does not help bring about a solution.”

L’Occitane also talks up its fight against animal testing, but then admits: "The Company’s products are sold globally and, along with many other global businesses, China is an essential market for its development. L’Occitane respects the right of each country to set their own laws and regulations; it actively seeks to influence the debate on abolishing tests on animals throughout the world and anticipates an end to animal testing in China."

On Bobbi Brown’s website list of FAQs, the very first question is “does your company test on animals?” The answer? A firm “no”. “Bobbi Brown is committed to the elimination of animal testing.” Except that this is followed by: “We do not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients, nor ask others to test on our behalf, except when required by law.”

Some cosmetic companies, such as The Body Shop, Lush Cosmetics and Paul Mitchell, have chosen not sell their products in China. They recognise that selling in prosperous markets that require animal testing is inconsistent with their stance against animal testing.

Complicating matters is the growing appetite of cosmetic behemoths L’Oréal and Estée Lauder. L’Oréal is the parent company of Lancôme, Giorgio Armani Beauty, Biotherm, Kiehl’s, Shu Uemura, Urban Decay, Garnier, Maybelline, Kerastase, Redken, Vichy, The Body Shop and many others. Meanwhile, Estée Lauder is the parent company of Clinique, MAC, Bobbi Brown, La Mer, Smashbox, Aveda, Prescriptives, Origins and others.

What information do cosmetic counter staff give about animal testing?

CHOICE sent a shadow shopper, Amy (not her real name), to Myer and David Jones stores in Sydney. Amy approached the cosmetics counters of brands including Clinique, Clarins, Bobbi Brown, Benefit, Lancôme, SK II, Shiseido, Chanel, Dior, and M.A.C, all of which sell cosmetics in China, according to the Hong-Kong-based Li & Fung Research Centre and CHOICE’s own research.

Amy asked sales assistants whether their products were tested on animals. If the response was no, she asked them about whether the product had to be tested on animals in China.

The sales assistant at the Clinique counter was aware of the Chinese legislation, and, while she wasn’t spot-on about the application of the law, proactively warned our shadow shopper about it.

In contrast, when our shopper asked the sales assistants at the Clarins counter about the animal testing legislation in China, she was told it didn’t exist. “Internationally it’s illegal to test on animals, because animal rights is so big now,” she was told. “Other countries really don’t have a right to say that [animal testing is compulsory]”. Wrong on all counts.

At Benefit and Bobbi Brown, our shopper was told the products weren’t tested on animals, but upon probing further was referred to the head office for more information. SK II, Lancôme, Chanel, Dior and M.A.C sales assistants all claimed their products weren’t tested on animals, but were unsure about the existence of the Chinese legislation.

What companies say on their websites

CHOICE also looked at the websites of 55 brands of cosmetics, from specialty products to supermarket cheapies. Of these, 22 made claims either on their own websites or on those of their parent company about their products not being tested on animals, but only a minority were certified. Estée Lauder, the parent company of several of the brands now sold in China including Bobbi Brown and Smashbox, states on its website that “Our longstanding commitment to end animal testing has not changed: we do not test our products or ingredients on animals, nor do we ask others to test on our behalf, except where required by law”.

According to Giorgio Armani’s website, “Giorgio Armani does not use animals to test its products, and does not have animal testing conducted on its behalf by anyone else.” The brand is in the Chinese market and is on PETA’s list of companies that do test on animals.

A CHOICE shopper also went to supermarkets, department stores and chemists and purchased 32 products with labels making claims about animal testing. The claims on the products varied, from the seemingly unequivocal “products and ingredients not tested on animals”, “never tested on animals”, and “cruelty-free vegan”, to the slightly more ambiguous “not tested on animals” and “cruelty-free”, and the potentially questionable “against animal testing”, “finished product not tested on animals” and “tested on us”.

What the packaging claims

Of the 32 products, nine carried a logo that signified certification by a third party. When we checked to confirm the origins of the logos and the credentials of the companies using them, we found mixed results.

DermaVeen, Invisible Zinc and Natural Instinct products all carried a logo that was not from a third party certifier, although featured similar imagery. We could not confirm the origins of the Grace Cole Co and Olivella logos. An additional product made by Australian company Original Source carried a logo that did not appear to be official.

Only the Nature’s Organics, Trishave and Innoxa products were certified by a third party, Choose Cruelty Free, as not tested on animals.


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