UK government bans animal testing of chemicals used exclusively as cosmetic ingredients

By Julia Wray | Published: 22-May-2023

The announcement follows a High Court judge’s recent ruling that the Home Office’s interpretation of EU-originating legislation shouldn’t prevent the UK from having a policy prohibiting cosmetics testing on animals

The UK government has banned giving licences for the animal testing of materials used exclusively as ingredients in cosmetic products. 

Its decision follows the recent revelation that, in 2019, the Home Office secretly changed its policy to mimic that of the European Union

The animal testing of both finished cosmetics and their ingredients was banned in the UK in 1998.

In the EU, animal testing of cosmetic ingredients sold in the EU to meet the needs of the EU Cosmetic Products Regulation (1223/2009) – a consumer safety regulation – has been banned since 2013. 

However, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) can mandate animal testing for cosmetic ingredients to meet the needs of the EU’s pan-industry chemicals regulation REACH, which covers worker and and environmental safety. 

Following Brexit, the UK has adopted its own version of the EU’s REACH system, called UK REACH, adopting the same testing policy approach.

During a recent court case, brought by animal protection organisation Cruelty Free International (CFI), UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman argued that she was bound by this EU-originating law to authorise such testing.  

While the High Court judge, Justice Linden, agreed with the Home Office’s interpretation of the legislation, he noted that this did not stop the UK having a policy prohibiting cosmetics testing on animals.

Now, in a written statement to parliament, Braverman has said: “The government is taking action to seek alternatives to animal testing for worker and environmental safety of chemicals used exclusively as cosmetic ingredients. 

“We are therefore announcing a licensing ban with immediate effect.”

Braverman stated that the 1998 ban on animal testing for the consumer safety testing of ingredients remained in force. 

And she added: “The REACH regime is separate from and has a different purpose to the consumer cosmetics regulations, which is why it has been possible that a chemical used in cosmetics production may be required to be tested on animals. 

“This has been reflected in the issuing of a small number of time-limited licences between 2019 and 2022. 

“The government recognises the public concern around the testing on animals of chemicals used as ingredients in cosmetics and the new opportunities available to us to depart from the EU testing regime.

“I can confirm, therefore, that from today no new licences will be granted for animal testing of chemicals that are exclusively intended to be used as ingredients in cosmetics products.

“The government is also engaging with the relevant companies to urgently determine a way forward on these legacy licences.”

A statement from CFI, called Braverman’s announcement “a welcome first step”.

“We are pleased to see that the government are listening to the British public in reinstating a partial ban on animal testing for ingredients used exclusively in cosmetics, to protect consumer, worker and environmental safety, and actively seeking alternatives to animal testing,” it continued. 

“However, ingredients used exclusively in cosmetics amount to only about 20% of the total number of chemicals used in cosmetics. 

“The previous ban, confirmed by the government in 2015, also covered ‘substances used exclusively or predominantly as cosmetic product ingredients’.

“We urge the government to now take the next step by reinstating the full ban on animal testing for cosmetics.”

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