By Shambhavi Saxena:
Trying to purchase ethically and responsibly can be a huge, huge pain in the kiester considering today’s hyper-consumer lifestyle, for a number of reasons. First, information about the ways in which the product has been manufactured is not readily available to consumers, or for that matter, may not be disclosed by the parent company (and that’s when you know something’s up). While the ads get glossier and glossier with ever generation of products, everything from the ethics of sourcing primary ingredients to the treatment of workers involved in the manufacturing and delivery process is a mystery, and one that consumers aren’t supposed to concern themselves with. At the centre of the production process is the heart-breaking practice of chemical testing on animal subjects. Animal subjects including most rodents, fish, frogs, dogs, cats and even sheep are chosen for their biological systems, immunological responses and genetic structures, which are similar to ours, the humans who use these cosmetic products. Indirectly, the cosmetics and pharmaceutical companies of the world have caused animals by the millions to be burned, poisoned, blinded, drowned and drugged.
Vivisection is a horribly popular medical practice used among pharmaceutical testers which involves the cutting up of a live animal, infecting it with a disease, and observing its agony to record data. There are also instancing of intended brutalizing of animal subjects (in order to subdue them). Animal subjects are also known to be degraded, like this young vivisection subject of the Royal College of Surgeons Laboratory in Enlgand, UK.
Yes. It has the word “Crap” tattooed onto its forehead. And this was as recently as the seventies.
However, hope shines bright. Since October, India has become the first country in Asia to be a cruelty-free cosmetics zone as per Rule 135-B, which states, “Prohibition of import of cosmetics tested on animals. – No cosmetic that has been tested on animals after the commencement of Drugs and Cosmetics (Fifth Amendment) Rules, 2014 shall be imported into the country”. (HSI)
The Indian branch of the Humane Society International’s campaign manager Ms. Alokparna Sengupta called it “a defining moment in the modernization of India’s safety science, with potentially hundreds of thousands more animals spared pain and suffering”. (The Hindu)
Civil society members, who take to expressing their opinions in the comment sections of varied online dailies and blogs, are divided on the matter. There are some who value ‘scientific progress at whatever cost’ over the lives of living beings and humane action. One such commenter argues that doing away with the cruel, invasive testing, done against the animal’s will and more often than not fatal to the animal, is the only safeguard for human skin.
However, the move has not been regressive in the least. Earlier this year, on 23rd May 2014 to be precise, “animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients [was] outlawed throughout India,” and Rule 135-B, as a much needed follow-up, will mark the end of a nightmarish existence for laboratory test subjects.
For doubters this article attempts to explain why this is a good thing and how you can roll with it.
Why Buy Cruelty-Free?
If the word ‘cruelty’ wasn’t enough to convince you, well then, here are some cold, hard facts instead:
• Testing on animal subjects is done to determine the safety of ingredients that make up a cosmetic product.
• There are already thousands of ingredients and chemical compositions that are deemed safe and don’t need testing.
• Animal testing includes, in addition to eye-irritation, toxicity and allergy tests, what is called a “lethal dose” test, that is force-feeding the animal the test ingredient to determine the amount which must be ingested before it can be considered lethal.
• Director of the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Professor M. C. Sharma, has stated that “approximately 20 million animals are being used for testing and are killed annually; about 15 million of them are used to test for medication and five million for products”.
• There are numerous alternatives to these cruel practices, such as using donated blood, stem cells, In Vitro research (within the controlled environment of a test tube) and artificial human skin for tests, that should eliminate the need for live animal test subjects altogether.
Have I been Buying Animal Tested Products?
Unwittingly, yes. We all have. It can be a nasty shock as a conscious consumer when you realize that even those tiny, seemingly innocuous little bottles and tubes of your favourite products are manufactured by companies that have a history of animal testing and abuse. The following is an inexhaustive list of those very companies:
• Procter & Gamble (Vicks vaporubs and cough drops? Even your favourite sanitary napkin brand? Yes. Click the link for a full list of their products)
• L’Oréal (surprise, surprise! Cosmetics giants don’t get where they are without killing a few bunnies, apparently).
• Reckitt Benckiser
• Johnson & Johnson
For more information on what brands you might want to avoid, a quick visit to Go Cruelty Free is a great help.
Animal testing is mandatory for approving products in China, and, to a large extent in Brazil as well, but the EU and Israel have categorically prohibited testing and imports, with India following suit. A lot of the companies listed below began selling outside of the EU and Israel, especially to developing nations. Of course, India’s new stance certainly does change things, and is without doubt a step in the right direction.
If you’re looking to make that change as soon as possible, There are plenty of healthier, greener, cruelty-free products that you can choose from when restocking your home supplies, and before you know it, you would have weaned yourself off those old companies:
• Nirvaaha (New Delhi and Bangalore; Online Store)
• Shehnaz Hussain
• Krya (Chennai; Online Store)
• Splurge (Mumbai; Online Store)
• Aroma Magic
• The Body Shop
• Body Essence
• Forest Essentials
• Herbal Strategi
(*When purchasing, be sure to look out for the Leaping Bunny logo, which is PETA’s stamp of approval of a cruelty-free product.)
Most, if not all, of the brands included in this non-exhaustive list are Indian businesses, so you can be cruelty-free and support local while you’re at it! Now it’s not likely that you, as a consumer, are going to be able to go cold-turkey on the products you’ve come to depend upon. But the effort is appreciated and invaluable. We could be looking at phasing out animal-tested products completely in a few years, and there are already more than enough businesses that have shown us the way.
I want to end with a popular phrase I used to hear while growing up, and if you were a fan of Animal Planet in the early 2000s, you might recognize it as well – “When the buying stops, the killing can too”.