On 14 February 2019, the Industrial Chemical Charges Bill 2017 passed the Senate. The bill will limit the circumstances in which cosmetics that have been tested on animals can be placed on the Australian market. Australia has been slow to legislate against the use of cosmetic animal testing. The UK passed legislation in 1998 and the rest of the EU did so in 2013, while in Australia, animal rights advocates as well as some cosmetics companies, such as the Body Shop, have been campaigning for a ban on cosmetic animal testing.
If the legislation passes the House of Representatives, it will come into effect on 1 July 2020.
What does the bill do?
The legislation prohibits the use of animal test data obtained after 1 July 2020:
- to determine the category of introduction of a chemical to be used solely for cosmetic purposes; or
- in an application to introduce an industrial chemical that is for use solely in cosmetics.
Cosmetic animal testing no longer occurs in Australia. However, the Australian government continues to accept data obtained from animal testing when approving new cosmetic products to be placed on the market in Australia.
The bill, which has been described as ‘banning cosmetic animal testing’, actually only limits the circumstances where animal tested cosmetics can be placed on the Australian market. It prohibits the use of data obtained from animal tests conducted after its passage (in respect of chemicals used solely for cosmetic purposes). However, products developed through animal testing prior to the passage of the law will remain on the market. So will products that include chemicals that are used for cosmetic as well as non-cosmetic purposes.
Why ban cosmetic animal testing?
In the past, animal testing was considered to be the most reliable way of testing chemicals for possible adverse effects on human health. However, it is now considered more expensive and more time consuming than other forms of testing. Animal testing for cosmetic purposes has also become increasingly controversial, with animal advocates campaigning for its cessation. Scientific questions about the validity of data obtained from animal tests have also been raised.
Responses to the bill
The legislation seeks to encourage alternative testing methods and to limit the circumstances in which animal testing occurs.
The bill has been criticised as not going far enough by animal advocates who argue cosmetic animal testing should be disallowed entirely (whether cosmetic products are the chemical’s sole use or whether it also has other uses).
It has also been observed that the changes will have a very narrow practical effect, as very few products introduced on the Australian market contain chemicals that have used new animal test data. Animal tested cosmetics that use test data collected before the new law comes into effect will still be available in Australia.
However, the changes have been widely lauded as a positive step in protecting animal welfare, with the Body Shop’s Shannon Chrisp calling it ‘a major win in the fight to end animal testing’ and Vogue calling it ‘a win for animal and beauty lovers alike’.
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