There is extremely good news from Europe this week. Agence France Presse
tells us, "The European Parliament on Wednesday approved a total EU ban on the testing
of cosmetics on animals following decade-long rearguard resistance by the makeup industry.
"The ban on most animal tests will take effect in 2009 under a compromise
deal hammered out between the Parliament and European Union member states in
"But the industry has secured an extension to 2013 for three areas of
testing for which alternatives to the use of animals are proving hard to
find. The date, if met, will be fully 20 years after the EU's executive, the
European Commission, first proposed the ban in 1993."
Later in the article we learn that the three areas temporarily exempted are
"repeated doses of toxins, the impact of high levels of toxins on the
reproductive system and their impact on body organs and tissue." There is
concern about a loophole that could put a ban off indefinitely if
alternatives are not found.
I found coverage of the issue in many papers throughout the EU, Canada,
United States and Australia, but the coverage was generally brief.
The Press story was only 225 words; the January 16 Los Angeles
Times (p. 6), Chicago Tribune (p. 8), Miami Herald (p. A15), Raleigh News
and Observer (p. A3), and Bergen County Record (p. A 21), provided
abbreviated versions of that.
Even London's Daily Telegraph (January 16, p.18) and The Independent gave it
only a couple of lines.
The Friday, January 17, New York Times, included a few sentences in the
World Briefing section (p. A8):
"The European Parliament passed a law this week that will ban the use of
most animal tests to develop cosmetic products in the European Union by
The vote marked the end of years of fierce debate over how strict to
make rules on cosmetics testing. The ban will cover animal tests in Europe,
and the law also calls for a ban on imports of cosmetics that have been
tested on animals. As a concession to the cosmetics industry, though, the
import ban will be delayed until 2013 for products for which no alternative
to animal tests has yet been found."
Note the reference to the ban on imports. This would seem to great news, but
Melbourne's Herald Sun (January 17, p. 33) warns of "challenges at the World
Trade Organisation." The Calgary Herald, (January 16, p. 21) and the
Vancouver Sun (January 16, p. A16) both note "It was not clear whether the
law is fully compatible with World Trade Organization rules, which try to
ensure that trading blocs do not use moral or safety arguments as a screen
for protectionism. It could face a challenge from American pharmaceutical
companies." Interestingly, the US papers fail to note possible issues with
regard to the World Trade Organization.
Since I have just read Peter Singer's new book, "One World: The Ethics of
Globalization," the World Trade Organization issue is top of mind and
causing my excitement about the ban to be slightly tempered. Singer
discusses the WTO's unfortunate record in the face of previous attempts by
its members to enforce animal welfare standards.
Bans on product imports
based on the method of production (the process), rather than on the standard
of the product, have been considered to be a breach of WTO rules. He notes
that a directive adopted by the European Union in 1993, with goals similar
to the newly approved ban, was never implemented.
However, in November 2001, WTO governments agreed to a Ministerial
Declaration stating, "We recognize that under WTO rules no country should be
prevented from taking measures for the protection of human, animal or plant
life or health, or of the environment at the levels it considers
appropriate, subject to the requirement that they are not applied in a
manner which would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable
discrimination between countries where the same conditions prevail, or a
disguised restriction on international trade, and otherwise in accordance
with the provisions of the WTO Agreements."
(I took this quote from One World, page 58. You can buy Singer's book or
read more about it at:
The declaration is heartening, but given the still widespread use of
cosmetic testing on animals within the United States, the power of the
pharmaceutical industry within the United States, and the power of the
United States in the world, there might be some cause for concern. We can
certainly be hopeful and acknowledge that this is a huge step forward.
Perhaps it will succeed. Even if it does hit some bumps ahead, the passage
of the vote in the EU parliament shows a magnificent shift in values, a
shift towards compassion for members of other species.
Though press coverage of the ban has been a bit light so far, we can
increase that coverage with letters to the editor. Any of the papers cited
above as having run even brief versions of the story have given us the
opportunity to respond. We can call for similar bans outside of Europe and
we can discuss the ethics (and/or the efficacy) of biomedical testing on
other species. Please consider writing to any of the above local to you.
(The New York Times sells nationally, even internationally, and takes
letters from everywhere.)
Here are addresses for letters to the editor of the papers I cite:
Los Angeles Times: email@example.com
Chicago Tribune: ctc-TribLetter@Tribune.com or
Miami Herald: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/contact_us/feedback_np1/
Raleigh News and Observer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bergen Record: email@example.com
Daily Telegraph (London): firstname.lastname@example.org
New York Times: email@example.com
Herald Sun (Melbourne): firstname.lastname@example.org
Calgary Herald: email@example.com
Vancouver Sun: firstname.lastname@example.org
Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when
writing a letter to the editor.
The CNN website also has an article on the issue, including a vote asking,
"Do you care whether cosmetics are tested on animals?":
Yours and the animals',