This past August 31st, 2018 will go down as a momentous day. California lawmakers unanimously voted to pass a bill banning all cosmetics that are tested on animals, making California the first U.S. state to do so. The bill, formally known as SB 1249, was introduced by Senator Cathleen Galgiani and was co-sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Social Compassion in Legislation, a non-profit organization dedicated to researching and encouraging higher standards of ethics in research. The bill gives all brands until the first day of January 2020 to adopt alternate testing practices, or risk being removed from shelves in California. The ban covers all manner of cosmetics, including make-up, skincare, haircare, and body-care.
Personally, I had never planned to go cruelty-free. Pre-2016, the term wasn’t even on my radar. I was happily oblivious to the fact that my beloved MAC lipsticks were tested on animals. An accidental nose-dive into a video shared by an acquaintance, however, changed my course as I was inundated with image after image of the cruel reality of what animal testing entails. Needless to say, those images trumped my love of MAC. The idea that we as humans might exploit those who don’t have a voice of their own was unacceptable in my mind, and I never really looked back from that point.
Surprisingly, going cruelty-free isn’t quite the challenge it may seem to be. A quick perusal of helpful guides and databases will show that cruelty-free options are prevalent anywhere cosmetics can be found, from the well-illuminated aisles of Sephora or Ulta Beauty, to the excitingly economical shelves of your local drugstore. My favorite website for all things cruelty-free is ‘Cruelty-Free Kitty’, a highly informative blog with an extensive database of almost every brand under the sun alongside its status as cruelty-free or not. The information can be found, regularly updated and categorized into every format imaginable. Want to know which brands at Sephora or Ulta are cruelty-free? You’re one click away. Want to know specifically which skincare brands in particular are cruelty-free? You’re one click away. Want to know if one specific brand is cruelty-free or not? You guessed it, you are one click away. The way information on Cruelty-Free Kitty is organized makes it a breeze to find exactly what you’re looking for. Another useful source is, of course, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) website. While it isn’t my preferred option, it’s certainly out there for those interested.
So why do I believe it’s so important to go cruelty-free? Humans have been exploiting earth’s resources from the beginning of time, increasingly so at an alarming rate. As a result, it has become imperative be a conscious consumer to understand the origins of the things we consume. Are they produced in a sustainable manner? Is child labor behind its production? Do unfair wages play a part? Cruelty-free cosmetics fall under the same umbrella of being a conscious consumer. If the make-up, or face cream, or conditioner you’re using comes at the cost of forced testing on an animal, is it really worth it when there are so many other options available? Kindness is a basic tenet of Islam. It’s the bassline of our religion for we are expected to conduct ourselves with kindness at the core, and this extends to any sentient being, animals included. As I see it, forcibly confining animals for the sole purpose of testing chemicals on them goes contrary to the expectation that we should remember God in our treatment of sentient beings.
Whilst a myriad of brands have proudly borne the banner of being cruelty-free, a little wander down every non-cruelty-free brand’s FAQ section will yield the same result: Every company who tests on animals claiming they don’t support testing on animals, “except where required by law.” That little caveat is the key to understanding this whole situation. Most brands sell in China, where all cosmetic products are required to be tested on animals. Given how gargantuan the Chinese market is, it’s not one that most beauty brands wish to exclude themselves from. Not to mention the additional investment associated with changing testing methodologies. And yet, there are brands who are thriving with more ethical testing practices. Brands at every price point, from drugstore darlings like Milani, to high-end snags like Charlotte Tilbury made a choice to eschew testing on animals for more ethical practices proven to satisfactorily endorse cosmetic products as safe for human consumption.
To monetize this argument a little bit more, lets consider California’s economy, the largest in the United States by a sizeable amount, roughly equivalent to the economy of the entire United Kingdom. That’s absolutely monumental! To have animal-testing for cosmetics banned in an economy weighing in at $2.7 trillion is no small triumph. Meanwhile, as per the International Monetary Fund, the United States holds the title of the largest economy in the world. Imagine the potential effect of banning animal-testing in the largest economy in the world. It could easily set a precedent for the second largest economy in the world, China, to follow suit. As a result, it is imperative to take a stance on this matter. Now, I’m not saying that this new bill is the ultimate step in bringing animal-testing to a conclusion. After all, animal-testing still exists in pharmaceuticals. It is, however, certainly a step in the right direction and it’s pertinent that we insist on taking these steps, no matter how big or small they may seem because each step is an extra cog in a machine that didn’t exist not too long ago.
As a principal co-author of SB 1249, Ash Kalra, stated so eloquently, this “ban on animal testing in cosmetics, in favor of more ethical approaches to cosmetic testing” is a “compromise” that “reflects how business interests and consumer protection can go hand in hand”. I could not have articulated this better myself, and now that an overwhelming number of popular brands have proven that it is possible to engage in ethical testing procedures and remain profitable, it’s high time that every brand follows suit. We owe it to the voiceless victims of animal-testing.