Following a High Court ruling on 11th May 2022, the UK government has been legally allowed to issue licences for animal testing of some cosmetic ingredients. The ruling comes because the government was legally challenged by the anti-vivisection organisation Cruelty-Free International (CFI), which claimed that, since 2019, the government was violating the ban on animal testing for makeup and its ingredients that has been in place since 1998 by issuing licences for animal testing of some cosmetic ingredients in line with European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) rules.
The government said it was complying with EU chemical rules, which it retained after leaving the EU in 2020, and that animal testing was only required to ensure the safety of workers who handle ingredients such as homosalate, a common sunscreen ingredient used in many foundations and skincare products. The consumer safety of makeup products should still be tested by other methods.
The policy change has been condemned by more than 80 major beauty and cosmetic brands. Christopher Davis, director of activism and sustainability at the Body Shop, said to the BBC, “Allowing animal testing for cosmetics would be a devastating blow to the millions of people who have supported campaigns to end this appalling practice.” Michelle Thew, CEO of Cruelty-Free International, said, “The case shows clearly that [the government] was prioritising the interests of contract-testing companies over those of animals and the wishes of the vast majority of British people who are strongly opposed to cosmetics testing.”
The UK government is expected to publish a new chemicals strategy this year that may provide further guidance to cosmetic companies. The court’s judge said that nothing was stopping the government from introducing an absolute ban on animal testing of makeup products if it desired, but he also said it was “regrettable” that the public had not been informed about the policy change.