As a proud Canadian, it breaks my heart that my country still allows gentle creatures such as rabbits and guinea pigs to suffer in laboratories to test new beauty products or ingredients for cosmetics. I shudder to imagine these terrified animals having chemicals forced down their throat, dripped into their eyes, or smeared onto their skin, and left to suffer for days or weeks without pain relief. This is the ugly secret behind some of the world’s leading beauty brands, and it’s still perfectly legal in Canada.
It’s astonishing, really, when you consider that many of these animal tests were first developed in the 1930s and 1940s. Just think how much science has evolved and improved since then. These antiquated tests that have failed to keep pace with the high standards of modern science. Yet they are still being relied upon for cosmetics safety, despite the fact that most have never passed rigorous modern scientific validation. They are also being surpassed by state-of-the-art non-animal tests that are better able to predict how consumers like you or me will react to a product in the real world. So by removing animal tests from the equation, we would actually improve consumer safety, as well as protect animals. It seems a no-brainer, right?
It certainly is for the hundreds of cosmetics companies such as LUSH, Lippy Girl, Cate McNabb and Barry M, who are leading Canada’s thriving cruelty-free market by producing innovative, safe products without any new animal testing. They do so by using combinations of the many thousands of existing cosmetic ingredients with established use histories, together with available cutting-edge test methods that use human cells or computer technology instead of live animals. No company needs to test on animals to produce safe, new cosmetics, and it’s past time for Canadian law to close the door on this obsolete practice.
Animal testing of cosmetics isn’t just bad for bunnies, it’s also bad for business. Right now, any Canadian cosmetic containing ingredients newly tested on animals is banned from sale in the European Union — the world’s largest cosmetics market — as well as in Israel and India. All these places have outlawed both testing and trade in cruel cosmetics. So by introducing similar legal measures here in Canada, this trade barrier will be removed.
These countries are inspiring examples of progressive policy-making, and similar measures are pending in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Taiwan as part of a global movement away from cosmetics cruelty. So why isn’t Canada on this list?
An animal-testing ban would stimulate innovation in exactly this type of 21st-century science in Canada. Non-animal test tools are already big business in the world’s top economies, and the global in vitro testing market is projected to reach a staggering $17 billion by 2018. Our economy could get a piece of that action, but for as long as Canadian companies are allowed to use animal tests, there’s no incentive for them to change.
Let’s change that! Opinion polls show that the vast majority of us Canadian citizens want an end to cosmetics cruelty. So now’s our chance to make it happen by getting behind Humane Society International’s #BeCrueltyFree campaign (becrueltyfree.ca), which is leading efforts in Canada and globally for an end to cosmetics animal testing.
The solution is simple: Amend Canada’s Food and Drugs Act to prohibit animal testing for cosmetic purposes, and end the sale of cosmetic products and ingredients tested on animals abroad after a fixed cut-off date. A Canadian ban would be a big win for animals, consumers, business and science. All we need now is for our policy-makers to act.
They have the power to stop the suffering, and I implore them to do so.
Actress and former model Tricia Helfer is originally from Donalda, Alta.