By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
With Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature earlier this month, New York became the 10th state in the U.S. to prevent the sale of cosmetics that have been newly tested on animals. This represents just the latest gain in a worldwide movement to end cosmetics animal testing on animals.
Worldwide, we’re up to 42 national bans, and an additional 12 state bans in Brazil. Passage of these laws will not only prevent the cruel and unnecessary use of rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and rats to test cosmetic products and their ingredients, but foretells the imminent end of animal testing for cosmetics worldwide.
Aligned advances in science, public policy and corporate engagement signal a paradigm shift we’ve been confident would take hold. As non-animal technologies continue to advance, they can provide increasingly accurate predictions of human and environmental safety of cosmetics, chemicals, drugs and other products. They combine human cells, tissues and organs, 3D printing, microengineering technologies, robotics, computer models and other tools that are typically faster, less expensive and better at mimicking how the human body responds. That’s why we’re bringing together advocates, researchers, companies and governments from around the globe to work toward the common goal of ending animal tests and experiments in favor of more sophisticated and ethical methods. Beagles, bunnies and other animals don’t belong in laboratories—and we’re helping to create a future where they won’t have to be.
In 2022, with your help, we made great strides toward this global goal. As the year was coming to an end, as part of a U.S. federal spending bill, we secured $5 million within Food and Drug Administration’s budget specifically for nonanimal methods. And the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland agreed with us that the National Institutes of Health cannot refuse to transfer federally owned chimps—who suffered years of invasive biomedical experiments—to sanctuary, where they deserve to retire.
More people than ever are aware that animals of all kinds are suffering in research and testing and want to join our fight to ensure that the future of science is both effective and humane. Here are a few highlights:
Thousands of beagles spared from suffering
This past summer, we were honored to lead a massive undertaking—removing 3,776 beagles from Envigo, a facility in Virginia that bred dogs to sell to animal laboratories. This historic mission was the result of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice that described shocking violations of the Animal Welfare Act at the facility.
Instead of continuing to suffer, the dogs removed from Envigo were ultimately adopted into loving homes, a process facilitated by our shelter and rescue partners around the country. Thousands of people welcomed Envigo beagles into their family, including Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. The facility is now permanently closed.
Even before the beagles were removed, lawmakers in Virginia were so alarmed by the welfare violations at Envigo that they were motivated to pass five groundbreaking bills designed to protect dogs and cats at Virginia facilities that breed animals to sell to animal laboratories.
Exposing the realities of animal testing
We released a seven-month-long undercover investigation at a laboratory in Indiana owned by Inotiv (the parent company of Envigo) that carries out gruesome and often deadly tests on dogs, primates, pigs, mice and rats on behalf of other companies. The investigation documented with appalling clarity what animals in laboratories endure, raised greater public awareness and drew the serious attention of government officials.
More than 275,000 animal lovers, including celebrities Kim Basinger and Jennifer Aniston, urged the release of 80 beagle puppies being used in harmful tests at Envigo and scheduled to be killed afterward. Sadly, the fate of these dogs was never made public.
We filed a formal complaint with U.S. Department of Agriculture about possible Animal Welfare Act violations at Inotiv. A USDA inspection report later confirmed some of our findings.
Major wins at the state level
New York’s legislation is just the latest win at the state level for animals subjected to testing. In September, California became the first state in the nation to ban painful and unnecessary toxicity tests on dogs and cats for pesticides and food additives when the groundbreaking PET Act, which we supported, was signed into law.
And Massachusetts and Iowa joined 13 other states in giving dogs and cats in laboratories the chance to be adopted into loving homes after being used in experiments.
Before New York acted, Louisiana became the ninth state to pass legislation banning the sale of cosmetics tested on animals, joining Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, California, Nevada and Illinois.
Safety without suffering
Our efforts achieved the elimination of several obsolete animal test requirements for vaccines and established Humane Society International as an effective collaborator in driving transformational change in the pharmaceutical sector. Our efforts to abolish the “abnormal toxicity test” for human vaccines in South Korea resulted in its abandonment. We also established an exemption process in Indonesia for human vaccines and in Brazil for veterinary vaccines.
We also saw significant progress made for horseshoe crabs, industrially fished and bled to obtain a protein used to test biopharmaceutical products for contaminants. Bled crabs are then returned to the sea, where many die, and those who survive may become incapable of reproduction. However, a synthetic alternative to crab blood exists, and we are working to secure its approval worldwide. This year, we obtained an official commitment from South Korean authorities to accept the new approach.
In Brazil, we led successful negotiations with regulators and manufacturers of school supplies for children, which until now have been subject to lethal animal testing of paints, glues and other materials. Our efforts led to the revision of regulations to minimize animal testing and promote the use of non-animal approaches instead.
Our international science team continued to act as a thought leader, co-authoring multiple peer-reviewed publications to drive the scientific debate. We also co-hosted a series of workshops and webinars with industry leaders and regulatory officials from the pharmaceutical, consumer product and chemical sectors to build awareness, trust and acceptance of non-animal approaches throughout Asia, the Americas, Europe and the globe.
Shifting the paradigm
With our support, the South Korean Ministry of the Environment set itself the goal that by 2030, more than 60% of the data it receives to evaluate the safety of chemicals would be generated by non-animal approaches. The ministry backed this up with the immediate investment of 4 billion Won (more than $3 million) to accelerate the pace of change.
Our animated short film exposing the cruelties of animal testing Save Ralph—which continues to raise awareness around the world, being recognized as the top nonprofit film at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival and winning two awards in the 26th annual Webby Awards—was also released in Korean as part of a multi-day exhibit in the lobby of the national assembly. This event rallied support for passage of the Act on the Promotion of Development, Dissemination and Use of Alternatives to Animal Testing. The act would require federal regulatory and research ministries to prioritize funding and other actions to accelerate the replacement of animal use for testing and research.
In Europe, we teamed up with animal protection organizations, cruelty-free brands including Dove, Lush, Herbal Essences and others, and together collected more than 1.4 million signatures in support of a European Citizens Initiative calling on the EU to uphold its cosmetic animal testing ban.
In India, through our grants and mentoring programs, we successfully integrated two Indian scientists into a large international project focused on building acceptance of non-animal alternatives. This success has prompted similar grant initiatives by governmental and other organizations.
In Canada, we contributed strong animal protection language to a bill to revise the country’s chemicals law.
Our global campaign to ban animal testing for cosmetics continued to gain momentum this year, with our Brazilian and Chilean bills each passing through critical votes, bringing them within arm’s reach of becoming law.
In the U.S., the bipartisan Humane Cosmetics Act, legislation to prohibit the production and sale of animal-tested cosmetics, ended the year with 19 senators and 187 representatives co-sponsoring the legislation and major corporate support including an endorsement from Whole Foods Market.
The Canadian government has committed to banning cosmetics testing on animals by 2023. We are working with stakeholders in South Africa and Southeast Asia for the introduction of similar measures.
We have also been hard at work with our partners in the Animal-Free Safety Assessment Collaboration, developing an extensive online “master class” in non-animal cosmetic safety assessment to give companies, authorities and other stakeholders the tools—and confidence—needed to fully transition away from animal testing.
How you can help
The work we do in this area continues to empower and inspire governments and companies around the world to do what’s right for animals. As we look forward to 2023, here are a few ways you can help:
Together, we’re shaping a future in which animals no longer suffer in laboratories. Thank you for being a part of this historic change.
Kitty Block is CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.