One of the most common cruelty-free beauty questions I get is, “What is required by law animal testing?” Lots of brands that market themselves as being cruelty-free also state that they do test on animals when required by law. What exactly does this mean? How does it impact a brand’s cruelty-free status?
Our brand does not conduct animal testing, nor ask others to do it on its behalf, except when it is required by law.
This statement is one that is starting to be seen more and more on brand FAQ pages and in response to customer outreach. It’s confusing to many readers and sends a mixed message about the brand’s stance on animal testing. What is required by law animal testing? What does it mean when brands state that they take part in animal testing required by law?
There are many brands out there who say that they are cruelty-free and do not test on animals, except as required by law. One of the most common questions that Logical Harmony receives from readers has to do with this statement. What does it mean when a brand says that they do not test on animals unless required by law? Does it still mean that the brand is cruelty-free? In this post, my goal is to explain what this statement means in general and what it means about a brand’s cruelty-free status.
What does “animal testing as required by law” mean?
Required by law animal testing means that the brand is allowing animal testing to occur on their products due to various laws and regulations around the globe. These laws may apply to ingredients, formulations, or finished products. They could also happen pre-market (before the products are available to consumers) or post-market (after the products are available to consumers).
Due to certain local laws and regulations, animal testing is required in some areas. This can be across the board for big product categories, such as for cosmetics in China, or for more specific reasons such as in the US and EU.
Despite bans on cosmetic animal testing in many countries around the world, none of the bans include required by law animal testing. This could be required by law animal testing occurring to meet regulations in any country around the world. Including those countries that have enacted bans on animal testing for cosmetics.
In China, nearly all cosmetics and beauty products are required to be tested on animals. This is something that the government regulates. The government does the testing, but the brands who sell in China are required to pay for animal testing and to agree to it happening.
There are some cases where items can be imported into China in a way that avoids animal testing. Some examples are by selling only direct to consumers through e-commerce or selling only in Hong Kong. This does often cost the brands more money to do, but many do not mind paying extra to stay cruelty-free. China has also implemented some changes that allow some products to be sold there without any required animal testing.
In the EU, animal testing on cosmetics sold in the EU is generally banned. But the ban does not extend to ingredients that are commonly found in both household items and cosmetics. These ingredients can still be tested on animals. In the US, the FDA and EPA also require animal testing on some chemicals that are found in both household and cosmetic items. It is also unclear if the EU ban does or does not allow testing on animals in cases related to worker health and environmental toxicity. Due to the EU ban on animal testing on cosmetics, some brands have opted to include the “required by law” disclosure in their stance when they are using ingredients that may be tested on animals to comply with other EU laws.
In the US, there are also many reasons why new ingredients and new formulations may be tested on animals. Innovative skincare companies are an example of this because many are using new ingredients and new formulations that have not yet been proven safe.
When the animal testing is required by law this testing is often not done by the brand itself but by a 3rd party company or local governments. However, in both cases, the brand pays for animal testing to occur and is aware that it is happening. The brand is consenting for animal testing to occur on their products.
Are ingredients used in cosmetics required to be tested on animals? Sometimes.
New ingredients and new formulations that are yet to be proven safe are required to be tested on animals in the US, EU, and in many other countries.
Are ingredients used in household products required to be tested on animals? Sometimes.
The EU and FDA only require animal testing on new ingredients. However, what the ban on animal testing in the EU does not cover are ingredients used in household items. Many ingredients found in household items, for example, iron oxides, glycerin, mineral oil and more, are also found in cosmetics. Brands that sell in the EU can still test ingredients used in household items on animals and sell in the EU.
Does animal testing as required by law only happen in China? No.
Animal testing as required by law can happen anywhere around the world. Almost every country has requirements for animal testing that could impact cosmetics. This is why a brand might not sell in China but still test on animal as required by law.
Can required by law animal testing happen in the EU or other regions where animal testing is banned? Yes.
There could be reasons that local governments still require animal testing on cosmetics even if that country has a ban on animal testing in place.
Is a brand that engages in animal testing as required by law cruelty-free? No.
The answer, from the standards here at Logical Harmony, is no. A brand that tests on animals, even when required by law, is not cruelty-free. Even if the brand itself is not testing on animals, they are aware of the animal testing being done on their behalf. They have given permission for these tests to happen and they are paying for it financially in some way.
Brands that test on animals as required by law will be listed as a Brand to Avoid on the Cruelty-Free Brand List.
Can brands avoid required by law animal testing? Yes.
Brands can avoid required by law animal testing by not selling in ways that require it, and not using ingredients or formulations that require animal testing.
Why do some brands who engage in animal testing as required by law claim to be cruelty-free?
Since animal testing is often done by a 3rd party and not the brand itself, they use this as a loophole to try and avoid responsibility for animal testing. There is no regulation on the term cruelty-free. Because of this, a brand can claim to be cruelty-free for a variety of reasons. In some cases, brands who test on animals during production but do not test the finished items on animals even say they are cruelty-free. The term can really mean anything.
While there are organizations that can help you find cruelty free options, including Logical Harmony, it is important to know that there is no set standard for what cruelty free means.