Sunday, December 14, 2008

Animal testing

Here's the part where people will label me with all kinds of nasty names and accuse me of having no heart or soul.

I just saw a post on one of my more frequented message boards where the poster said she didn't want to use L'Oreal products because they did animal testing. (To make matters worse, another poster then made a totally unsubstantiated claim that L'Oreal had links to Nazi Germany. Hey, thanks for throwing that out there. It's always a great idea to spread rumors when you have no evidence -- the Internet thrives on that kind of fastidious fact-checking.) But back to my original point about L'Oreal and animal testing in general. [Addendum: Turns out the Nazi Germany link is not pure rumor, despite the poster's lack of knowledge about it. There is a book on the subject, if anybody is interested: Bitter Scent: The Case of L'Oreal, Nazis, and the Arab Boycott. ]

I do not claim to have an inside line on what happens within the walls of the huge conglomerate cosmetics companies, but I have read some interesting commentaries and observations by people who do. For instance, in this Beauty Brains post, they point out that the companies who proclaim that they do not test on animals are simply using ingredients that other companies have already tested. So, yes, those companies can safely make their claim, but what they're really doing is profiting from some other company's "dirty" work, no? Paula Begoun, author of Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me, also writes on her Web site that:

Many companies proudly boast that they do not test their products on animals. Nonetheless, despite the fact that they don't test their finished products on animals, there isn't a company selling a sunscreen or using vitamins or myriad plant extracts in their products that doesn't know about the efficacy of these ingredients based on recent or current animal testing. While it is wonderful that companies like Beauty without Cruelty do not test their products on animals, as is true for many companies, a good many of their formulations are a result of animal research. If Beauty without Cruelty does excel in one area, it is that none of their products are sourced from animals. That is somewhat unique in the industry and definitely a plus for vegans.

Okay, but that doesn't get to the issue of the big companies that actually do the testing. I keep digressing....

The FDA doesn't require or discourage animal testing -- it just says that companies must use whatever method best substantiates the safety of their products. Unfortunately, although great strides are being made in the product testing arena, animal testing continues to be a highly reliable (in many cases, the most reliable) method of determining how a product will interact with humans. New methods are being developed all the time, and that is definitely a good thing. It will be a great day when no animals are sacrificed just so we can be prettier.

My research once again brought me back to the Beauty Brains, who wrote an excellent post about how this issue is simply not as black and white as most consumers would like to think.

So what about L'Oreal? I found lots of evidence to indicate that even if L'Oreal had once been an offender, it is determined to change its ways. This highly encouraging story at the cosmetics news site, that indicates L'Oreal is taking some very positive steps to move away from animal testing. And that story is more than a year old.

Another cosmetics insider site, Invitroskin, indicates that L'Oreal has discovered a new way of product testing called Episkin, which is essentially a human epidermis reconstructed on collagen.

I don't know about you, but I think it might be time to stop bashing L'Oreal for animal testing.

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