A buzzword today in the beauty industry is the 'cruelty-free' tag. As consumers become more conscious about their choices and choose to buy from ethical and sustainable sources, the onus falls on companies to introspect. When a product or company is labelled 'cruelty-free' this means the products are not tested on animals. This can sometimes be a confusing or misleading label because since just because the final product is not tested on animals does not guarantee that its ingredients are also cruelty-free!
In this day and age of cloud computing and self-driving cars, it would seem rather absurd that there is a need to test products on animals. But unfortunately, this is the reality we live in.
Let's take a deeper dive into the world of animal testing!
A Walk Through the History of Animal Testing
You may not be aware of this, but animal testing goes back to the Ancient Greeks of the 3rd and 4th centuries BCE. Aristotle was one of the first people to document it. In earlier times, animals served as testing grounds for surgical procedures to be performed on humans. In the name of biomedical research, animals and birds have been experimented upon for centuries.
"You ask about my opinion on vivisection. I quite agree that it is justifiable for real investigations on physiology; but not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity. It is a subject which makes me sick with horror, so I will not say another word about it, else I shall not sleep to-night." - Charles Darwin
By the 1800s, people were beginning to speak out against the practice of animal testing - particularly vivisection (basically cutting open a living organism). The practice was deemed cruel and unnecessary. In 1822, the first animal protection law was passed in Britain - the Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act. This was followed up by the Cruelty of Animals Act of 1876. It is from this point forward that the animal testing debate became rather heated with both sides advocating passionately and, at times violently, for their cause. The 19th century saw many societies come up - to protect animal rights - such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The 3 Rs
The Three Rs are guiding principles for the more ethical use of animals in testing, first described by W.M.S. Russell and R.L. Burch in 1959. They've been widely adopted and followed worldwide in testing establishments and have also been incorporated into regulations.
The 3Rs are as follows:
- Replacement - this means that non-animal testing methods should be chosen and preferred over animal methods wherever possible to achieve scientific aims. A popular non-animal method is computer modelling.
- Reduction - reduction refers to methods wherein researchers can obtain the same information by using fewer or no animals.
Refinement - refinement refers to methods that reduce or minimize any pain, distress or suffering for the animals such as using non-invasive methods.
Catching up to the Present: the Humane Cosmetics Act
Coming back to more recent times, on November 19th 2019 four US senators introduced the Humane Cosmetics Act which serves to federally ban animal testing on cosmetic products produced and sold in the United States. But why is this such a big deal? It's an important stepping stone towards phasing out animal testing in the beauty industry because the United States is one of the biggest markets for beauty products. It is also a manufacturing hub for cosmetics.
The US endeavouring to take such a strong step against the cruel practice of animal testing sends a message to corporations about what consumers truly want - good products and a guilt-free conscience!
Animal Testing in India
You'll be pleased to know that India is far ahead of the US when it comes to regulating animal testing. In 1960, India's first national animal welfare law came into being - the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. While this act criminalized animal cruelty, it made exceptions for animal treatment in scientific experimentation. The law also established the Animal Welfare Board of India to ensure anti-animal-cruelty provisions were properly implemented.
Then, in 1998, came the Breeding of and Experiments on Animals (Control and Supervision) Rules which setting breeding requirements for animals used for research. A 2013 amendment banned the use of live animal experiments in medical education. Finally, in 2014, India became the first country in Asia to ban all testing of cosmetics on animals and the import of cosmetics tested on animals!
When it comes to animal welfare, India has been far ahead of the curve and has been paving the way for more to follow.
The fact of the matter is that today we see the rise of ethical consumerism and greater introspection. With plenty of cruelty-free alternatives and products readily available, the onus is really on each individual to take that one little step towards a cleaner conscience. Because compassion and kindness can be shown just by buying from a cruelty-free brand like Myra Veda. Because cruelty-free does not mean you compromise on quality. Because every life matters and because true beauty is cruelty-free!