Animal Testing FAQs

Isn't cosmetics animal testing already banned?

In February 2003, the EU agreed a Europe-wide ban on cosmetics animal testing. The first stage of the ban came into effect in 2009 and the last stage (sale and marketing ban of new animal tested cosmetics) came into effect in March 2013. However, companies can still carry on animal testing cosmetics outside the EU where these cosmetics are also sold outside the EU. 

There are also a number of outstanding issues with the EU’s Cosmetics Regulation text which are yet to be clarified.  Until full guidance is given, it is likely that many companies which have not yet joined the Leaping Bunny programme may continue to use animal-tested ingredients.

In Croatia and Norway a partial ban has been implemented, and the import and sale of animal-tested cosmetics and household products is banned in Israel.

However there are no restrictions on animal testing for cosmetics in many parts of the world such as the USA and Asia.

What about animal testing for household products?

Everything from drain cleaner to washing up liquid can currently be tested on animals with few restrictions. In the UK, the Government has pledged to implement a ban on animal testing for household products (possibly for the end products only, not necessarily the ingredients). We’re working hard in the UK, Europe and elsewhere to achieve a full ban on this cruel practice. In the meantime you can buy products which are certified under the Humane Household Products Standard.

What kind of animal tests are carried out?

In cosmetics and household products research, painful experiments are carried out on hundreds of thousands of animals every year around the world, including dogs, rabbits, pigs, mice, rats, guinea-pigs, fish and birds. This includes tests for skin or eye irritation, skin sensitisation (allergy), toxicity (poisoning), mutagenicity (genetic damage), teratogencity (birth defects), carcinogenicity (causing cancer), embryonic or fetal genetic damage and toxicokinetics (to study the absorption, metabolism, distribution and excretion of the substance).

Why are these tests carried out? Are they required by law?

In the US and Europe, animal tests for cosmetics or household products are not specifically required by law. To market a product a company must demonstrate its safety, but this can be done by using approved non-animal tests and combinations of existing ingredients that have already been established as safe for human use.

It has been estimated that there are over 10,000 ingredients already proven safe for use. More and more ‘cruelty-free’ companies are saying no to animal testing and still produce safe, effective and high quality beauty and cleaning products.

What are the Humane Cosmetics Standard and Humane Household Products Standard?

Launched in the 1990s, the Humane Cosmetics Standard and the Humane Household Products Standard, set out the criteria for certification under the Leaping Bunny mark. This is the only international third-party certification programme that enables consumers to easily identify and purchase cosmetic, personal care and household products that have not been tested on animals.

To become approved a company must no longer conduct or commission animal testing and must apply a verifiable fixed cut-off date - an unmoveable date after which none of its products or ingredients have been animal tested.

Each company must be open to an independent audit throughout its supply chain to ensure that it adheres to its animal testing policy and the Standards’ strict criteria.

The Humane Cosmetics and the Humane Household Products Standards were developed by leading international animal protection organisations. In the UK the scheme is managed by Cruelty Free International, in Europe by members of the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, and in the USA and Canada it is managed by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics.

What's the difference between the Humane Standards and other 'cruelty-free' lists I have seen?

A number of retailers and animal groups promote their own ‘cruelty-free’ schemes. However, the companies approved by them have often done no more than issue a convincing — sometimes misleading — policy statement on animal testing.

The Leaping Bunny certification is unrivalled, as it requires each company to open its processes to independent audit throughout its supply chain, to ensure that it adheres to its animal testing policy and the Standards’ strict criteria.

Why are there so many different bunnies on packaging?

Some companies proudly display environmentally responsible or animal-related icons on labels, such as globes, leaves, rabbits etc. We ask consumers to investigate the icon and find out exactly what it means.

Often a simple icon or statement acts as a marketing tool to suggest a company engages in responsible, compassionate practices, thus encouraging concerned consumers to feel comfortable with their product purchase.

But the Leaping Bunny mark is the only logo which offers the assurance that a company complies with the rigorous Humane Standards, demonstrating that its products and ingredients are not tested on animals at any stage of bringing the product to market.

While many companies continue to use bunnies or similar ‘natural’ icons to imply they have a policy on animal testing, the mere appearance of a rabbit on a bottle offers little assurance of a company's actual policies or practices — unless, of course, it's the Leaping Bunny!

Many companies label their products as 'not tested on animals' or 'against animal testing' but do not adhere to the Humane Standards. Why would they say this if it wasn't true?

The Humane Cosmetics Standard and the Humane Household Products Standard were formed precisely to provide a guarantee for consumers in light of the growing range of animal testing claims made by companies. Unfortunately, some companies, recognising the importance of this issue to consumers, take liberties with the language on their packaging. This can be confusing.

Deceptive ‘not tested on animals’ claims may be truthful in the literal sense, although may well hide the fact that the ingredients in the product have been animal tested.

A company itself may not test; it may not even commission testing on its behalf. However, testing may occur by its ingredient suppliers, and a company may purchase ingredients with a ‘don't ask, don't tell’ philosophy.

What is the 'fixed cut-off date' for animal testing versus a 'rolling rule' or ‘supplier specific boycott’?

A company which adheres to a fixed cut-off date (as required by the Humane Standards) does not allow animal tests for any of its finished products, ingredients or formulations after a set date. The particular date is determined by each company and is a pledge that ‘from this day forward’ (the fixed cut-off date) animal testing will not take place as part of the manufacturing of the company's products. 

By contrast, a company which operates a ‘rolling rule’ (such as a five-year rolling rule) will not use an ingredient which has been animal tested within the specified timeframe (five years for example). However, it can use those same ingredients once the time has elapsed, limiting the incentive for suppliers to develop alternative test methods. 

Similarly, a company which operates a ‘supplier specific boycott’ can use ingredients tested on animals tomorrow, providing the supplier then agrees not to test in the future. Without a fixed cut-off date, no line is drawn, and animal testing within the industry may continue indefinitely.

Are all certified companies vegan?

In order to successfully promote the wide range and availability of non-animal tested products, this will inevitably include some non-vegan products.

A ‘vegan’ product contains no animal by-products or animal-derived ingredients. The vegan claim does not refer to a company's animal testing practices. While many companies that adopt a no-animal testing policy do also produce vegan products, the two claims need to be assessed separately. Similarly, just because a product is described as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ it does not necessarily mean the product was not tested on animals.

At present, few certified companies offer a full vegan range. By restricting certification to vegan-only products we would, unfortunately, be perpetuating the myth that non-animal tested products are an unrealistic choice for the mainstream consumer.

Of course, we know that many people are looking for vegan, non-animal-tested products. It is for this reason that we highlight companies which offer vegan or vegetarian products as part of their range in our Little Book of Cruelty Free.You can also refine your online search to find which companies produce vegan or vegetarian products.


Why don't all approved products display the Leaping Bunny logo? Does this mean that some products lines are not approved?

When companies become certified they usually like to use up residual stocks of packaging before redesigning to incorporate the Leaping Bunny logo. The stocks are used up at different rates which is why you might see the logo on some products in a range and not all. We try to encourage all approved companies to use the Leaping Bunny on their packaging as we know it makes it easier for shoppers.

However, some companies choose not to display it. For this reason we recommend that shoppers refer to our website or Little Book of Cruelty Free for information about certified brands, and remember that if a brand is listed that means we approve all of their own-label products.

What is a Humane Retailer and are all retailers listed certified as Humane Retailers?

As well as manufacturers of cosmetic and household products, we now also endorse a few retailers that will only sell Leaping Bunny certified cosmetic and household products. For example, whilst we certify the private labels of retailers such as Superdrug and Argos, we do not endorse them as Humane Retailers simply because they stock many different brands which we cannot guarantee are ‘cruelty free’. A Humane Retailer will have committed to stocking only Leaping Bunny certified cosmetics and household products, and so is a one-stop-shop for your ‘cruelty-free’ requirements.

What if a certified company is taken over by a non-certified one?

While a corporate take-over may, understandably, change how consumers view a company’s ethical status – and affect their decision to buy the product – it cannot alone affect accreditation. The international animal protection groups that administer the Humane Standards have discussed the issue of the increasing number of corporate take-overs and decided to continue to certify all companies that meet the Humane Standards criteria. We do indicate clearly when a certified company has a non-certified parent company; this enables consumers to make informed choices.

Revoking certification on the grounds that a company has been taken over by a non-certified one, would only prevent us from verifying the truth of their claims. Our role is to provide information on which products have been produced without reliance on animal tests data.

Are natural or organic products tested on animals?

Confusion can arise when the terms “organic” and “natural” are used to assert that a product is cruelty-free and not tested on animals. Suppliers are required to assess safety for natural and organic ingredients just as for synthetic materials, and evidence may be gathered using animal tests.

An organic or natural certification does not mean that a product and its ingredients have not been tested on animals.

Why can’t certified companies sell in China?

Chinese law requires all finished cosmetic (including personal care) products sold into China to be tested on animals first. Thus it is clear that companies which export personal care products to sell on the Chinese market are unable to operate without testing on animals (even though it may be done through agents without their knowledge). We have, therefore, made it an explicit condition of certification that members do not export ‘cosmetic' products to sell on the Chinese market, unless they can show that they have been given exemption to not test on animals. Unfortunately some companies, including Caudalie, L’Occitane, Mary Kay and Yves Rocher have been unable to do this and, as a result, have had their certification suspended.

This animal testing requirement does not extend to household products, nor to products sold in Hong Kong or via international websites. It also does not apply to products manufactured in China, but then exported out to be sold elsewhere. Certified companies can therefore manufacture cosmetic products within China as long as they don’t sell the products there.

In June 2014 new Chinese Cosmetics Regulations are likely to come into force, which may exempt domestically manufactured ‘ordinary use’ products such as shampoo, soap and lipsticks from the pre-market animal tests. ‘Special use’ products such as skin whiteners, hair dyes and sunscreen will not be exempt.

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