European Commission announces roadmap to phase out animal testing

By Julia Wray | Published: 26-Jul-2023

The Commission has promised a plan to accelerate the reduction of animal testing for chemicals legislation in response to the ‘Save Cruelty-Free Cosmetics’ citizens’ initiative

The European Commission has promised a plan for the move away from animal testing to meet the requirements of the European Union (EU’s) chemicals regulations. 

Its proposed roll-out of “legislative and non-legislative actions to further reduce animal testing” is in response to the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) ‘Save Cruelty-free Cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without Animal Testing’, presented to the Commission back in May.

The Commission’s roadmap will include collaboration with agencies, member states, NGOs, industry and research stakeholders. 

It will also involve evaluation of the effectiveness of existing legislative and non-legislative tools supporting the phasing out of animal testing.

The ultimate aim, said the Commission, is to move to an animal-free regulatory system under the EU’s chemicals legislation, which includes REACH, the Biocidal Product Regulation, the Plant Protection Products Regulation and human and veterinary medicines.

Also launched in response to the ECI are several actions to accelerate the reduction of animal testing, such as exploratory workshops and sustaining new training initiatives for early career scientists. 

What’s behind the ECI?

ECIs are formal initiatives to officially raise global issues with the European Parliament.

The ‘Save Cruelty-Free Cosmetics’ initiative was launched in August 2021 by Cruelty Free Europe, Eurogroup for Animals, the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, Humane Society International/Europe and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

In January, the organisers confirmed they had amassed 1.2 million signatures by the August 2022 deadline, surpassing the 1 million signatures required to present the issue to members of the European Commission, which they did in May.

The ‘Save Cruelty-Free Cosmetics’ initiative was launched to address EU worker and environmental protection legislation for chemicals, under which the testing of cosmetic ingredients is, on rare occasions, required. 

Under the EU’s Cosmetics Regulation, the placing on the market of cosmetic products that have been tested on animals is prohibited. 

In the EU, a ban on the testing of finished cosmetic products on animals came into effect in September 2004.

A ban on the animal testing of cosmetic ingredients in the EU came into effect in March 2009, at which point it became illegal to test cosmetic ingredients for that purpose on animals in Europe.

A marketing ban, to ensure that ingredients could not be tested anywhere in the world on animals to meet the requirements of the EU Cosmetics Regulation, came into effect 11 March 2013.

However, animal testing may still be required to assess ingredients’ hazards and risks to human health and the environment under the REACH regulation. 

REACH defines rules for the assessment of chemicals used in specific sectors or products, and stipulates animal testing is to be used as a last resort when registering specific chemicals.

In such cases, the Commission’s position has been that animal testing motivated by compliance with non-cosmetics related legislative frameworks should not trigger the marketing ban of cosmetics. 

In its response to the ECI, the Commission said that “the interface between the two pieces of legislation is currently being assessed in two cases before the Court of Justice of the European Union”. 

It added: “The Commission will consider the outcome of the court cases in view of any future potential legislative changes.”

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