Is there hope for cruelty-free beauty in China?

Trade in China is a common reason for companies to lose or never acquire a cruelty-free status despite pro animal statements. Chinese law requires all foreign cosmetics to be tested on animals before they are allowed on the Chinese market. In fact, all the European and American brands that we heard of have to agree to animal testing in order to sell their products in China. And so they agree.

You might wonder, if this is the case, why do companies decide to sell in China. As always, money is the answer. Cosmetic and retail sales in China are consistently growing with the overall retail sales reaching almost ¥26 billion  in 2015. This equals to almost £3 billion. These numbers are increasing from one year to another.

As a result, China is a very appealing revenue source to non Chinese brands such as Garnier, MAC, Rimmel, L’Oreal, Colgate, Avon, Nivea, Vichy, Chanel or Clinique. There are many, MANY more.

The law exactly

Animal testing laws in China are dependent upon the type of product to be tested, where it has been produced and how/where it is sold.

Have a look at this great info graphic created by Ethical Elephant  for better understanding.

animal testing in china

The key points we have to conclude are:

  1. Imported foreign products have to be tested on animals when sold in a store in China.
  2. Locally produced cosmetics are divided into ORDINARY PRODUCTS and SPECIAL USE COSMETICS.
  3. Special use cosmetics (deodorants, hair dyes, sunscreens) are tested on animals.
  4. Ordinary products (make up, fragrance, skin, hair and nail care) do not have to be tested on animals BUT are not banned
  5. Foreign products sold online do not have to be tested on animals. 
  6. Products sold in stores in Hong Kong only do not have to be tested on animals BUT are not Banned. 

Although there are some exceptions where animal testing is not strictly required any more, we have to remember that ANIMAL TESTING  IN NOT BANNED in China at all. This means that a company or Chinese authority can pick up the product off the shelf at any point and conduct all kinds of tests on it.

Why is there animal testing in China?

Erin Hill, president of U.S.-based Institute of In Vitro Sciences explained in an interview with CNBC that China is just not up to date with the current technologies and possible alternatives. The shift to cruelty-free product testing will require completely new equipment, specialized laboratories, trained and knowledgeable specialists and access to supplies.
Aggregation of all these factors will take time but let’s not use that as an excuse. China has the second largest economy status in the world and with some effort and good will, new ethical standards will only help them in the future. At the current state, Chinese products tested on animals should not be sold in countries where animal testing is forbidden. As more people begin to support the ban, China will start losing potential customers worldwide.

There is hope

In 2016 Chinese authorities confirmed that in the near future, they will accept research data from a non-animal test. The 3T3 phototoxicity assay, which measures the safety of a chemical after exposure to light is an alternative to animal testing. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that this has now been put into practice.

Some steps have already been taken by Chinese authorities to reduce the level of animal testing but there is still a long way to go.  The deviation from law regarding the ordinary and special use cosmetics has been introduced in 2014 which to some was already a big step forward. It would be great to see more progress coming.  This will probably happen later rather than sooner but at least we can see the light in the tunnel.

You can help by signing the international pledge to support the end of animal testing globally.

Whilst hundreds of companies decide to conduct animal testing in order to sell in China, there are many that pull out of china because the don’t agree with these procedures.  Such companies choose animal welfare over millions of potential customers. They consciously contribute to creating a better world for animals and deserve our money more than companies that don’t give a toss.

You will find them on my list of cruelty-free brands. 

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