New Delhi: India has banned the testing of cosmetics and their ingredients on animals in a move welcomed by animal welfare activists and even makers of cosmetics.
Drug controller general of India G.N. Singh made an announcement to this effect on Friday at a Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) panel meeting in New Delhi. Singh had put the two animal tests (it tests how chemicals react in the mouth) listed in BIS for cosmetics on hold in February after representations by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) and member of Parliament Maneka Gandhi calling for a ban. He had asked for the submission of non-animal testing methods at the time.
India joins several countries that already have such bans in place. The European Union, which banned testing of cosmetics on animals in 2004, extended this in February to all its trading partners. Common tests carried out in India are skin sensitization tests in which a substance is applied to the surface of the skin or injected under the skin of a guinea pig or applied to the ear of a mouse to test for allergies. Another test commonly carried out by cosmetic companies is an eye irritation test in which test substance is applied to a rabbits’ eyes to test for irritation.
According to a 2012 report by Assocham, India’s cosmetics market has been growing at an annual pace of 20% and is expected to reach Rs.20,000 crore by 2014.
Animal rights organizations welcomed the ban. “Animal tests are cruel and unreliable. Non-animal methods of testing are modern, humane and human-relevant,” said Peta India science policy adviser Chaitanya Koduri.
Some organizations see alternatives to animal testing getting a boost as a result of the ban.
Humane Society, an animal rights organization, has documented alternative testing methods like one using mouse cells to detect sunlight-induced photo-toxicity, and three-dimensional, reconstructed human skin models such as EpiDerm to replace rabbits in testing for skin corrosion and skin irritation.“After the ban on animal testing in EU in 2009, there was an acceleration in the development of non-animal alternatives,” said Alokparna Sengupta of Humane Society International.
Although cosmetic companies in India denied that they still perform tests on animals, they welcomed the announcement. “This is a good announcement although we don’t do any such tests. More regulations are coming in India everyday and this will keep us in line with international standards,” said Samir Modi, managing director of Colorbar, a US-based cosmetics company. Modi Revlon Pvt. Ltd, which sells American cosmetic brand Revlon in India, also stressed that the company did not perform tests on animals. “We comprehensively test all of our products using the most technologically advanced methods available to ensure they are both innovative and safe to use,” says the company spokesperson.
Unilever said it was committed to the elimination of animal testing. “It is equally committed to consumer health and safety, and to the safety of its workforce and the environment. Where some testing is required by law or currently unavoidable, we aim to minimize the number of animals used. Since the 1980s, we have remained at the forefront of research into non-animal approaches to test product safety,” a spokesperson said.