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Beauty Bag: The Animal Testing Debate

A while back I posted a haul of pretty products I bought from cosmetics brand Urban Decay. Although Urban Decay does not test its products on animals and they have a whole bunch of vegan products in their range, the post did raise the issue of animal testing in the cosmetics industry, which is something I was interested in looking into further.

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The Urban Decay brand is certified as cruelty-free by both the Leaping Bunny program and PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program. The company’s website states the following about their policies:

Urban Decay is a cruelty-free brand and is committed to ending animal testing. We do not test our products on animals, nor do we allow others to test on our behalf. Additionally, we require our suppliers to certify that the raw materials used in the manufacture of our products are not tested on animals.

However, the issue was raised due to the controversial purchase of the brand by cosmetic giants The L’Oréal Group back in 2012.

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L’Oréal has a huge market in China where – under federal law – it is mandatory to test all cosmetic products on animals before they can be sold to the public. L’Oréal’s website states:

The [L’Oréal] Group no longer tests on animal[s], anywhere in the world, and does not delegate this task to others.

An exception could be made if regulatory authorities require it for safety or regulatory purposes.

That is, “We still test all products that we sell in China before they hit the shelves.” (You can read their full statement on animal testing here.)

So after seeing their “cruelty-free” label revoked and causing mass consumer outrage by those who had long used and trusted the brand when making ethical beauty choices, Urban Decay pulled all plans to retail in China.

So are they still cruelty-free if they don’t use animal testing themselves but their parent company does?

The brand is against animal testing and they even removed themselves from one of the world’s largest consumer markets in order to stay true to their cruelty-free ethos. Due to this, no Urban Decay products are subject to animal testing anywhere in the world.

Yet they still “sold out” to big, bad L’Oréal.

This ethical dilemma isn’t exclusive to Urban Decay. There are a long list of certified cruelty-free brands also owned by animal-testing parent companies: NYX Cosmetics and The Body Shop are also owned by The L’Oréal Group, Aveda and Smashbox are owned by Estee Lauder, NARS and Bare Minerals are owned by Shiseido, and Burt’s Bees is owned by Clorox (just to name a few).

So is it okay to purchase products from brands like Urban Decay and The Body Shop if you want to be cruelty-free? Therein lies the ethical conundrum…

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There are two sides to this argument:

Firstly, if you purchase products from the cruelty-free brands owned by big corporations then you may argue that you’re supporting the parent company that does test products on animals in some parts of the world. So your money may indirectly go towards the funding of animal testing even though the brand that you actually purchased products from has been certified as cruelty-free.

However, the counter-argument is that by buying only from the cruelty-free brands under a parent company’s corporate umbrella (rather than boycotting them altogether), you’re showing the big guys that this is what consumers want. You’re showing that more and more people are choosing cruelty-free products over their animal testing counterparts; Urban Decay over Maybelline, Smashbox over MAC, or The Body Shop over Garnier.

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So yes, brands like Urban Decay may have “sold out” to bigger corporations. But the fact that they listened their consumers and refused some of that corporation’s policies for the sake of staying true to their cruelty-free values – and in doing so greatly reducing their international reach and revenue – is pretty admirable.

Like Urban Decay, I’m not perfect. Far from it. I can’t honestly say that my make-up bag is 100% cruelty-free. However, I’m trying to educate myself more and I’m gradually phasing out products and brands that don’t fit with my ideals. I do, of course, own products from independent beauty brands like E.L.F. and Too Faced who are pretty clear on their cruelty-free stance but for now the jury is still out on Urban Decay and the other guys sheltering under those bigger corporate umbrellas.

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When it comes down to making ethical beauty decisions, ultimately, the choice is yours. And any movement towards a more ethical, animal-friendly lifestyle is a good one.

Where do you stand?

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4 thoughts on “Beauty Bag: The Animal Testing Debate

  1. This is such a great post! I’m worried that huge beauty brands like L’Orreal barley notice that sales are up on Urban Decay and slightly down on L’Orreal because so many people buy from L’Orreal and they get the profits anyway. It’s win – win for them either way. I wouldn’t judge anyone though for being in either side of a very grey line.

    1. Thank you! :) I guess working in a sales industry (not beauty!) where we look at every possible statistic and comparison available, I hope that L’Oréal do take into account year-on-year sales of each brand in their range. So perhaps over time, the more people that switch, the bigger the changes that show. Just one way of looking at it, though and as you said, it’s a very grey line!

  2. This is a very interesting and well written article. I think people can just make the best decision that they possibly can in their circumstances. Voting with your money does seem to be the best way to get the corporate world to notice.

    1. Thanks so much! It was a topic I was really intrigued by as I can definitely see both sides to the debate. But I agree – it’s up to everyone to make their own decisions and draw their own moral lines. Hopefully one day, animal testing will be completely phased out and it will become a non-issue. :)

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