As American firms jostle for a piece of China’s $15-billion-and-growing cosmetics market, Avon, Mary Kay, and Esteé Lauder have quietly turned their backs on 20 years of “no animal testing” policies, according to People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals, which until recently counted all three among the largest mainstream names on its cruelty-free list. Although animal testing of cosmetics is neither required nor banned under U.S. law, the Chinese government continues to require skin- and eye-irritation tests before certain products can be marketed in the country.

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Avon, Mary Kay, and Estée Lauder maintain that the animal tests were conducted under government duress. “We do not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients, nor ask others to do so on our behalf, except when absolutely required by law,” says Clayton Webb, director of corporate communications for Mary Kay, in a statement. “There is only one country where we operate where that is the case—China.”

By failing to inform their customers of the animal tests, all three are guilty of misleading the public, says PETA.

But the firms haven’t done enough to promote alternatives to animal experimentation, counters PETA. “Mary Kay had taken some steps to work with officials in China, and at our urging, promised to continue this effort,” says Kathy Guillermo, PETA’s vice president of laboratory investigation. “But Avon and Estée Lauder appear to have gone along with the painful animal tests without objection.”

By failing to inform their U.S. customers of this change in stance, Guillermo adds, all three are guilty of misleading the public. “Avon, Estée Lauder, and Mary Kay have regressed a generation,” she says. “Their products are once again being dripped into rabbits’ eyes and smeared onto animals’ abraded skin.”

The upside? The Institute for In Vitro Sciences, which receives financial contributions from Avon, Mary Kay, and PETA, is assembling an international consortium to represent companies in countries that require animal testing. It’ll also provide training for scientists in China in the use of non-animal test methods, as well as work with officials to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of alternative methods that are used in the United States and European Union.

Until then, Guillermo points to the 1,000 of companies of PETA’s list are unequivocally cruelty-free. “Fortunately, consumers don’t have to backslide with them,” she says.


[Via Scripps News]