By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
We took to the halls of power in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday for a full day of events in support of the Humane Cosmetics Act, H.R. 5399, a bill to end animal-based cosmetics testing in the U.S, usher in a new era of cutting-edge testing methods, and prohibit the sale here of cosmetics newly tested on animals in other countries.
The day included a Capitol Hill briefing, appearances by key sponsors in the House, congressional meetings with celebrity guests Tricia Helfer and Lala Kent, and a capstone event, staged with the help of our corporate partner Lush Cosmetics, at a rooftop venue overlooking the U.S. Capitol. The event featured a screening of “Save Ralph,” our star-studded stop-motion animation short film about a rabbit “tester” in a laboratory.
The most important thing to know about the Humane Cosmetics Act is this: The U.S. has failed to keep pace with the rest of the world when it comes to ending the use of animals for cosmetics testing. But now we have the opportunity to make that happen here, in the world’s largest market for cosmetics, with annual sales of nearly $50 billion. For years, we’ve worked closely with industry leaders, elected officials, scientists, regulators and other animal organizations to set the stage for success.
The momentum is with us. The European Union began phasing out animal use to assess the safety of cosmetics produced and sold within its borders more than 15 years ago, and today some 44 nations worldwide prohibit or limit such uses of animals, thanks in large part to the efforts of Humane Society International and nonprofit and industry partners, with similar policy measures in development in Chile and South Africa. And over the last few years, 11 American states have enacted laws to ban the sale of animal-tested cosmetics. But a federal ban on cosmetics animal testing has proved elusive.
The prospects for passage of federal legislation increased dramatically four years ago when the Personal Care Products Council pledged its support for the Act. PCPC is the voice of more than 600 member companies comprising the $529 billion global cosmetics and personal care products market, including some 90% of the American beauty products industry. We’ve worked closely with its leadership to align our strategy for successful passage of the measure. In this 118th Congress, we think that’s within reach.
And there’s no time to lose.
The path to this moment has been a long one, from the emergence of the original 3Rs rubric for addressing the dilemma of animal suffering in research, testing and education (refinement, replacement, reduction) in the late 1950s, to the creation in 1980 of the Coalition to Stop Draize Rabbit Blinding Tests—four hundred institutional members strong—which launched an historic campaign to drive awareness and pressure multinational corporate giants to commit funds and scientific expertise to the challenge of replacing animal tests, to the advancement of a burgeoning worldwide market in cruelty-free cosmetics.
This progress amounts to a stunning transformation in science, commerce, culture, consumer influence and public policy. It has mobilized millions of dollars in investments tied to non-animal methods and their validation and spared tens of millions of animals over the course of the last half century. It’s a paradigm shift almost entirely driven by the heart and will of millions of citizens worldwide. This is how change occurs.
Now is the time for the political investments needed to get the bill through. U.S. Representatives Don Beyer, D-Va., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., Ken Calvert, R-Calif., and Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., are the House leads for the bill. In the last congress, 188 House and 20 Senate legislators stood behind the Humane Cosmetics Act as cosponsors.
In “Save Ralph,” Ralph is interviewed as he goes about his daily routine as a rabbit “tester” in a laboratory. Deaf in one ear and blind in one eye, he’s resigned to his fate, even as the other rabbits in the laboratory, taking note of his new celebrity, urge him to implore the documentarians to “get us out of here.” Ralph and friends, we’re listening.
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Kitty Block is CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.