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Cruelty- Free Products: Put a Stop to Unnecessary Animal Testing
Many people are unaware that almost all cosmetic products in stores have been tested on animals. Companies hide this act, and the pain and suffering it induces on animals, to preserve their picture-perfect reputation. The means of testing vary, only with two results; harm or death to the animals. As of now, there are not adequate laws put in place to protect animals and prevent them from being tortured and killed. Consumers should be aware of the process of cosmetic animal testing, why it is unnecessary, and the alternatives. Although animal testing is controlled mainly by the big corporations, everyone can do their part in slowing down, and eventually putting a stop to, unnecessary harm.
Cosmetic companies usually purchase their test animals in bulk and delegate a specific group to test a certain product. The most popular test animals include: mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, and monkeys. “In these tests, the animals have chemicals forced down their throats, into their eyes and onto their shaved skin in order to document their reaction to ensure the safe use for humans” (Zuazia, par 5). Oftentimes the animals are strapped into equipment that prevents them from moving their limbs [to rub and ease the pain inflicted on their eyes] and keeps their head upright (Fig. 2). There have been cases where these restraints have caused broken backs in test animals because of their efforts to distance themselves from the chemicals burning their flesh. Braces are then placed on the upper and lower eyelids to keep the animal’s eyes opened and exposed. Blinking is not permitted and is only simulated by the experimenter in efforts to expose all parts of the eye to the foreign chemical. The experimenter then examines the animals for such common reactions as: bleeding, swelling, discomfort, organ damage, birth defects, and even death (Fig. 1). After this, if the animals are not yet dead, they are put to death without any pain-reducing drugs. It is not in the companies’ interests to continue feeding the animals and providing basic care after they are contaminated with the products, so bags of the dead bodies are simply thrown out with the regular trash. Unfortunately, this is the reality for an estimated 100,000-200,000 animals annually (Zuazia, par 5). .
Figure 1: “The Truth Inside your Cupboard” Figure 2: “Millions of animals are subjected to painful tests every year.”
It can be argued that animal testing is the most efficient method of cosmetic testing that will ensure the safety of consumers. After all, it is of top priority to guarantee the welfare of humans, right? It is cheap, somewhat reliable, and can easily be overlooked when profits start accumulating. In favor of this argument, it is estimated that 95% of human genes are shared with mice. This means that if a product has a negative reaction on a mouse, there is a good chance it will also harm humans. Although animal testing is beneficial in other areas such as medical research, cosmetic testing on these innocent beings is completely avoidable and unnecessary. After all, do we really need another lipstick?
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Fortunately, there are numerous alternatives to animal testing that are currently being tested and utilized. Although these methods of ensuring human safety are much more costly than traditional animal testing, some people may be willing to pay more for products that are advertised as “cruelty-free”. Some alternative methods are even more accurate, because there is always the chance that a certain animal gene will react differently than a human gene. Many of these methods can be completed within 48-96 hours, whereas the results of animal testing are collected for up to 21 days. According to the Humane Society, “nine out of 10 candidate medicines that appear safe and effective in animal studies fail when given to humans” (“About Animal Testing” par 6). In other words, these cruelty-free testing strategies are a blessing in disguise.
The main types of alternatives used in labs today include testing with: cell cultures, protozoa, human tissues, computer models, and volunteer studies. As for cell cultures, human cells are grown and replicated in a laboratory. The produced cells then function the same as if they were in the body. Scientists have progressed as far as creating 3D structures, and even devices that mimic body organs such as the heart and lungs. These lab-produced simulations can provide testing on skin cells and organs that can show exceedingly more accurate results of irritation and other issues than in animal testing.
Out of all cosmetic tests, there is a new procedure that stands out due to its convenience; the protozoa test. Single-celled organisms are placed in an enclosed environment along with the precarious new product. If the protozoa grow at a standard rate, the cosmetic product is safe. On the other hand, if the organisms decrease in size or population, the new product is harmful to humans. This test is simple, accurate, and time effective, as it only takes a span of 2-4 days to get results. All equipment and materials amount to about $100 (Nava-Martinez, 85). This is relatively inexpensive compared to other alternative tests that require high-tech resources or samples of cells.
The next method of testing involves human tissues. These are live human tissues that have been donated from either a surgery, transplant, or a deceased body. This method is not only harm-free, but is obviously more accurate than animal testing because the results on human tissues will always remain constant. After numerous studies and trial-and-error accounts, structures with similar functions to human body systems have been produced. “For example, skin and eye models made from reconstituted human skin and other tissues have been developed and are used to replace the cruel rabbit irritation tests” (“Alternatives to Animal Testing” par 10). The laboratory which founded this development now sells human tissue testing kits for cosmetic and other companies to conveniently test their products.
Computer models offer a controlled simulation of bodily organs and systems such as the heart, lungs, skin, kidneys, and digestive and musculoskeletal systems. Although these are the only currently-developed simulations, they are all that is needed when it comes to cosmetic testing. These virtual experiments are made possible through equations and gathered information from previous in-lab experiments. No harm is inflicted on anyone in this process, nor are expensive, hard-to-get skin samples. All that is needed for this cruelty-free alternative is the computer software and a tech that is well-educated on the software and in the field of biology.
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The last effective method of testing is volunteer studies on humans. Volunteer studies are helpful when testing low-risk products that do not come in contact with the eyes. The first step is simply monitoring and observing area of skin tested. This can then be compared to a “normal patch of skin” [control group] of another human. This method is mainly used to test simple factors of products such as levels of impact on sensitivity, and progression of new products. Cosmetic testing plays in when it comes to micro dosing; the idea consisting of giving the volunteers very low doses of the tested drugs or product and observing how they affect certain systems and the human body as whole. “These micro doses are radio-labeled, injected into human volunteers and measured (usually in blood samples) using a very sensitive measuring device called an accelerator mass spectrometer” (Alternatives to Animal Testing” par 13). Micro dosing can be used to in a patch-style test that is attached to the skin and removed for examination after 24 hours.
Animal testing would not be such a big issue if laws regarding the rightful treatment of animals were put into place. After all, the same detrimental procedures that take place in a testing lab would be considered animal abuse [and be enough to land the abuser in jail] if completed in a household. As of now, the only law protecting test animals is the Animal Welfare Act. Even though this law is in favor of keeping the harm of animals to a minimum, it is merely a start in the right direction. “Enacted in 1966, it regulates the care and use of animals in research, testing, teaching, exhibition, transport, and by dealers… However, the AWA provides only minimal protection for certain species while excluding others such as rats, mice, and birds bred for research” (“Animals in Science / Research” par 1). Certain breeds, such as all cold-blooded species are not even acknowledged, much less protected by this measure.
If companies were recognized, and given incentives for avoiding cosmetic testing on animals, the high ratio of animal testing to cruelty free testing would likely flip. Unlike other countries, companies in the United States have the right to choose how testing is completed. In China, animal testing for cosmetics is required before products can even be released in their stores. The Journal of Animal and Environmental Law, by Louis Brandeis School of law states that the simplest, most effective way to encourage alternative measures is to provide a monetary incentive to companies. The notion includes “giving a Research Experimentation Tax Credit to companies to offset alternative testing expenses” (89). Although cruelty-free testing would result in more work for cosmetic companies, they will take advantage of this tax credit if their goal is to maximize profits.
Cosmetic companies have the majority of control over this issue, but there are small steps every consumer can take to make a difference. Products which are not tested on animals usually claim so on the labels. More and more brands are starting to go cruelty free, but it is important to return those which are animal tested to the shelves. It is unbelievably easy to find an alternative product which produces the same results as the product a shelf away. Some cruelty free brands include: NYX, smash box, Milani, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, Wet n Wild, and Lush (Fig. 3). Remember that the less animal-tested products are purchased by consumers, the less testing animals will undergo in efforts of developing new products, and the more cosmetic companies are discouraged in the use of animal testing.
Figure 3: “These Companies Don’t Test on Animals”
In conclusion, cosmetic animal testing is both inhumane and unnecessary. Animal testing may be reasonable when it comes to new medical procedures which may save people’s lives, but when it comes to cosmetics, there is no need to put innocent animals through torture to make variations of products we already have. In addition, there are many alternative tests that can be done in American labs that have been proven to be more accurate than tests conducted on animals. It is not difficult for everyone to take part in resolving this issue; consumers simply need to stop encouraging animal-testing companies by simply not purchasing products that have been tested by animals. Eventually, the government may support bans on cosmetic animal testing, but for now Americans need to vote with their power of consumerism and their money.
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