In 2013 the first complete ban of cosmetics tested on animals occurred in the European Union. The EU implemented legislation that no cosmetic that has been tested on animals can be sold or manufactured within the Union. Since 2013 other countries such as Israel, Norway, New Zealand and India have implemented similar legislation. Now it may be Australia’s turn with the Ethical Cosmetics Bill 2016, which is the second amendment bill to Industrial Chemicals Act 1989 since 2014, which was commended to the lower house on the 29th of February.
Animal testing for cosmetics is usually preformed on rats, mice, rabbits and guinea pigs. These animals are subjected to multiple allergy tests in the mucous membranes without pain relief. Many of these animals die and this is an outdated practice with many safe chemicals now freely available for manufacturing, as well as other scientific methods for testing such as cell culture, computer models and donated tissues.
Clare O’Neil the Member for Hotham moved the bill to see an end to the importation and manufacturing of all cosmetics and substances for cosmetics that have been tested on animals within Australia. The bill is implementing the importing of cosmetics into Australia or manufacturing a product in Australia that has been tested on animals an offence. The proposed changes also state that no applications will be granted for cosmetic ingredients to be tested on live animals under any circumstance. Though this is not the first time that an amendment has been presented to Parliament. In March 2014 Senator Lee Rhiannon commended the End Cruel Cosmetics Bill 2014 to the upper house, however, two years later we still have not seen a result.
The amendment was seconded by Stephen Jones Member for Whitlam and together they held multiple public forums where they took information from the public and industry figures regarding the proposed amendment. Mr. Jones also informed us that they received over 13 000 submissions regarding the amendment and most were strikingly in favour.
So does this mean all our current beauty products will be removed from our shelves? The answer is no. The amendment clearly states that the new legislation will not apply if testing on a live animal was conducted before the commencement of this amendment. Mrs. O’Neil has also confirmed this on her Facebook page that all products that are already readily available will remain on shelves, and that removal of these products would not help her cause. Rather Mrs. O’Neil is concentrating on ensuring that future products are not subjected to animal tests.
But what are the financial implications? This amendment is closely modelled on Europe’s approach and they are yet to suffer any significant financial loss. Mr. Jones also informed us that the Bill is providing companies a three year transition period. Nevertheless, it is clear Australia is currently lacking behind the rest of the world, though Mr. Jones is optimistic that there is support in Parliament for the amendment saying, ‘it would be hard to argue against’. Though he did state when asked if this is the start of a complete ban on animal testing, that individuals would be less likely to approve the ban on medical testing.