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European Court decision makes cosmetics testing bans virtually meaningless

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Help us to put the UK ban on animal testing for cosmetics into law

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We are angry at this morning’s scarcely believable decision, made by the General Court of the European Court of Justice, to force German cosmetics manufacturer Symrise AG to conduct animal testing on ingredients exclusively used in sunscreens.

This decision makes bans on animal testing for cosmetics in the European Union and United Kingdom virtually meaningless, as animal testing requirements to analyse the safety of new chemicals, through Europe’s REACH chemicals laws, have taken precedence over the cosmetics testing bans.

The General Court has ruled that tests on animals for cosmetics ingredients have to be carried out under REACH where there are no accepted non-animal options, as the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) often claims is the position. However, the Cosmetics Regulation bans apply whether there are approved non-animal approaches or not.

The Court has wrongly sidestepped a provision in REACH which says that the REACH testing requirements apply ‘without prejudice’ to the cosmetics bans – in other words, those cosmetics bans should take precedence, given that they were introduced before REACH regulations came into effect.

Instead, this ruling turns on its head what EU citizens were promised – and what 1.2 million people demanded when they signed our ‘Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics’ ECI.

It was under REACH that, in 2018, ECHA told Symrise AG that they were required to test these chemicals on animals. Subsequently, this was also used by the UK government as justification for its abandonment of the 1998 policy ban on animal testing for cosmetics ingredients.

The two ultraviolet light filters involved, homosalate and 2-ethylhexyl salicylate, are solely used as ingredients in sunscreens. The toxicity testing required by ECHA will involve over 5,500 animals, including rats, rabbits and fish, being force-fed the ingredients in tests causing a high degree of suffering before being killed and dissected.

Symrise AG’s initial appeal against the requirements to conduct tests on animals of these chemicals, held in 2021, had been dismissed by ECHA’s own Board of Appeal.

Symrise AG then took their case to the General Court, and Cruelty Free Europe, of which we are a member. were allowed to intervene in the case on their behalf.

Our Director of Science and Regulatory Affairs, Dr Emma Grange, said: “This decision is a huge backwards step in our fight to stop animals suffering and dying in the name of beauty. The existing bans, which have been in place in the UK for 25 years and European Union for two decades, are now virtually meaningless, as this case will set a damaging precedent in toxicity testing for cosmetics ingredients, even if they have been approved as safe for use for many years.

“Over 1.2 million European citizens expected that their demands would be heard when they signed our ECI, but they clearly have not. The public has every right to feel their trust in the cosmetics bans has been undermined. The European Union has promised to start to draw up a roadmap for the total phase-out of chemicals animal testing in Europe. We need the EU to come clean with the public that if the cosmetics testing bans remain so toothless then we are not as far along that path as we thought. The process now needs to be accelerated, irrespective of any further appeal in the courts.”

You can #PledgeCrueltyFree and show your support for policies to end animal testing in the UK – including sending an email to your local MP.