Animal Testing - Digging deeper
I noticed a lot of bloggers increasingly shunning brands that test on animals, and while I mean no offense to them, I just want to delve deeper into the big hoopla about animal testing. In April 2012 , the Indian government banned animals being used in schools and colleges to teach students anatomy, and not to forget the art of dissection. (that is so many surgeons not being able to know their calling when they first see it- but jokes apart )
You have probably seen this image, splashed everywhere by PETA and all organisations that want to ban animal tests.
Read on to know the full story
Rabbits (whose symbol you see on your makeup jars/ tubes)are generally used for testing eye products. The reason for this test to become a standard protocol was that a lot of people going blind due to coal tar in mascara in 1930s. So the problem began with makeup in the first place, and now we are going to ban animal testing for beauty products. I am genuinely not sure what has changed that assures us that the mascara made of components not tested on animals will not harm my sight. Also why dont the organisations that protest testing on rabbits never tell you that the testing began because some people went blind after some coal tar was used in mascara. The least these organisations can do is to maintain complete transparency.
When I was young, a cosmetic brand having its own laboratory was considered a best practice. It meant they put a lot of thought and science into the product. Of course it was understood that a laboratory also tests its products. And needless to say it is not on human beings (ah sigh of relief). Come on honestly tell me how many of us would volunteer to be a guinea pig for some unknown product that has not been tested. I wouldn’t, I am sure not many of you would volunteer right. So that’s basically where animal testing comes in. you test products on laboratory rats more often than not (despite the fact that animal testing symbol has a rabbit.). Rats are closer to human beings in a lot of aspects and not to forget are also cheaper and most commonly used laboratory animal. However the free from animal testing symbol remains a rabbit (having a rat would probably gross everyone out, and make it less of a cause perhaps)
It was probably tests on rats that revealed that silicones are bad, SLES have adverse reactions and what nots. So why is everyone making such a big deal out of animal testing. Where is this entire animal testing = cruelty=bad equation come in. A lot of products I notice say ‘cruelty free’ somebody please define cruelty for me. Is cruelty restricted to testing on animals, does it not extend to ethical sourcing, lesser environmental impact.
The problem with animal testing comes in when there are no guidelines for how are laboratory animals to be treated. I am all for testing, but I would never support cruelty to animals. To me these are two very different issues. A lot of emotional b**** , peddled by (no prizes for guessing) cosmetic companies that do not have a laboratory. I appreciate the ability to turn a negative into a positive. But I still call a spade a spade. And I would never buy mascara from the companies who don't have a laboratory.
In US there are guidelines (AAALAC) and detailed ones at that about how animal testing should be done, how should the animals be housed and so on. Simply put it ensures that laboratory rats are treated with complete dignity. We need an organization that ensures that ethics of testing on animals are maintained and publicly disclosed.
A lot of people ask but do we really need to put shampoo on a monkey to know it is safe for us. Hmm good question. But would you rather find out while having your shower that there are some extra strong chemicals in the shampoo that are causing your hair to fall, or change colour or feel like straw. We have animal testing for all the drugs we use, what the hell, every drug we use is tried on a lot of other patients before it is deemed fit for your consumption. Should I stop taking medication because I don’t know the ethics of the clinical trial on human beings. A lot of human beings who become clinical trial subjects have no idea they are on a trial, they are just told they will get free medicine, in exchange for agreeing to giving blood samples on a regular basis so that the doctors may know how a drug is working. Most clinical trial subjects are too poor, or have tried everything and failed, and have little to lose. Yet how likely are you to buy a medicine that says we don’t test on humans and/ or animals.
Your cosmetics , believe it or not, also make their way to your blood stream, often your nervous system (if they are the strong smelling types even your respiratory system). Are you really willing to try cosmetics that are not tested on animals on your self.
I even went to PETA to see their take on animal testing , here is what they said.
Instead of measuring how long it takes a chemical to burn away the cornea of a rabbit's eye, manufacturers can now drop that chemical onto donated human corneas.
How many companies have access to human corneas, how easily are these available. I don’t know the answer but the question is worth asking. I found a site that makes a beautiful argument about the viability of moving away from animal tests.
Most of what PETA has argued is about how much pain the animals go through, but cant we have more ethical trials for animals. How difficult is it to give the animals painkillers, to ensure they are cared for before and after the trial . To me the most sensible recommendation PETA makes is this
They (companies) can also choose to use ingredients and chemicals which have already been proved to be harmless and are known to be safe.
My problem with PETA is they describe how badly animals are treated in laboratories and end with a conclusion that reads, therefore end animal testing. Why don’t we grade facilities that carry out animal testing, put in place guidelines to ensure that products in concentrations which we know are harmful are never tested on animals. SLES might be very harmful in high concentrations, it should be obvious it should not be tested on animals in that form. But what comes to me as shampoo, might probably benefit from a trial to ensure that no new chemical reaction has occurred in the shampoo that might lead me to losing my hair, or developing some horrible reactions with repeated use.
So what is my point after this rant, and I quote Wikipedia here which sums up what I have been trying to say ‘ The dominant ethical position worldwide is that achievement of scientific and medical goals using animal testing is desirable, so long as animal suffering and use is minimized. The British government has additionally required that the cost to animals in an experiment be weighed against the gain in knowledge. Some medical schools and agencies in China, Japan, and South Korea have built cenotaphs for killed animals. ’
PETA names some companies that test on animals and are AAALAC accredited as working with PETA to end cruelty. Why does PETA not direct us to AAALAC that takes a more rational approach to animal testing. I don’t know. But I do know a rational argument would somehow not work as well on people who take a holier than thou stand when it comes to animal testing. I am not saying what I am saying is correct or that animal testing is the next best thing after a zipper, but what I am asking each of my readers to do is think things through read up other opinions and research to see where they stand with respect to animal testing. Why should a makeup company tell you if animal testing is good or bad, as beauty bloggers we should do our own research and make up our mind about animal testing.