I thank the hon. Gentleman for that important intervention. Yes, I agree that much more needs to be done to look at non-animal testing methods in all forms of research, particularly for those types of experiment for which other methods are available. Animal testing should always be the last resort. I chair the all-party parliamentary dog advisory welfare group, and just the other month we heard about the 400-odd dogs tested—a figure that was reported to me as in Hansard. I was then told that the number had not been reported accurately to me and that it was more likely to be 4,000 across the UK. Will the Minister get back to me on that point? That also highlights that much is done underground, and we need to be much more transparent. We need to have the figures and to know that animal research is the last alternative, as it is meant to be. I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman that much more needs to be done about the transparency of the animal research industry.
Although no global ban has yet been enacted, the European Union ban on animal testing for cosmetics and on the sale of cosmetics tested on animals came fully into force in 2013. Other bans, some more comprehensive than others, are now in place in many countries. Guatemala, New Zealand, India, Israel, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and Vietnam now have legislation, and things are moving forward in Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Chile, South Africa and China. In the USA, state-level bans have been enacted, as well as some mandated alternative laws. In a global market, it is essential that all countries ban the practice, to avoid testing simply moving around the world to countries with no effective laws, to ensure a level playing field and to put an end to animal suffering. The challenge is to make cruel cosmetics a thing of the past once and for all, and to achieve one coherent global ban on animal testing for cosmetics.
To market a product, a company must demonstrate its safety. Of course, of that we all agree, but that can be done by using approved non-animal tests and combinations of existing ingredients that have already been established as safe for human use. Increasing awareness of animal sentience and the pain, suffering and death inflicted upon animals via product testing has led the public to reject the idea in their droves. The number of companies seeking certification under Cruelty Free International’s leaping bunny programme is increasing, as their market insights tell them that consumers want cruelty-free personal care products.
The information that historically was gained from animal tests is increasingly being provided through quicker and more reliable non-animal methods. Modern methods are more relevant to humans and have been found to predict human reactions better than traditional animal-model methods. For example, an evaluation of the reconstituted skin model for skin irritation found that it predicted human skin reactions much better than the cruel Draize skin test on rabbits.
Rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, hamsters and rats continue to be injected, gassed, force-fed and killed for cosmetics testing worldwide. It is estimated from OECD figures that more than half a million animals are killed each year for cosmetics testing. Examples of the types of tests that are undertaken include repeated dose toxicity: to assess toxicity, rabbits or rats are forced to eat or inhale a cosmetic ingredient or have it rubbed on to their shaved skin every day for 28 or 90 days, and are then killed. Several reviews of the ability of rodent tests to predict human toxicity have found that they are only 40% to 60% predictive. They also include reproductive toxicity tests: to assess such toxicity, pregnant female rabbits or rats are force-fed a cosmetic ingredient and then killed, along with their unborn babies. Such tests take a long time and use thousands of animals, although studies have shown them to detect only around 60% of known human reproductive toxicants.
In toxicokinetic testing, rabbits or rats are forced to eat a cosmetic ingredient. They are then killed and their organs examined, to see how the ingredient is distributed in their bodies. Animals have significantly different metabolisms and physiology to humans. Thus, before the now available non-animal alternatives were routinely used by the pharmaceutical industry, the failure rate of drugs for poor prediction in this area was 40%.
Although some finished product tests take place, they are increasingly rare; most animal testing takes place on ingredients. It is important that consumers are aware of that; otherwise, they might unwittingly buy products that carry a meaningless claim, stating that the finished product has not been tested on animals, when the ingredients could well have been.
What are the alternatives? Companies can prove that their products are safe by using non-animal methods and utilising established ingredients. There are almost 30,000 ingredients on the EU’s database for which some safety data are available. There is an increasing number of non-animal methods available to replace outdated animal tests. To assess skin irritation, for example, we can use alternatives such as reconstituted human epidermis, such as the Episkin model developed by L’Oréal. More than 700 brands across the world are “leaping bunny” certified. Other companies may also follow this example and remove animal testing from their supply chains but, sadly, animal testing continues.
Some questions have been asked about the completeness of the EU ban. Since the introduction of the EU cosmetics directive, the European regulation concerning the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals—REACH—has come into force. Although Cruelty Free International has fought hard against the animal testing provisions in REACH, it does have implications for many types of chemicals, including some that may be used in cosmetics. That is something to highlight to the public.
Some 80% of the world’s countries still allow the practice of testing cosmetic products on animals. In the global cosmetics market, it is essential that all countries end the practice of testing on animals, to avoid it simply moving around the world to countries with no effective laws. That has to ensure a clear playing field for this country and others that have done the right thing and give consumers confidence that they are buying cruelty-free.
Being able to claim that a product is cruelty-free is the most important packaging claim for a beauty product. A 2015 Nielsen study found the “not tested on animals” claim to matter the most to consumers. By ending animal testing for cosmetics, businesses will gain a competitive advantage here, across the EU and in the global cosmetics market. Worldwide consumers are increasingly demanding ethical, sustainable and humane products and services.
Cruelty Free International, which is represented in the Public Gallery this afternoon, has partnered with the global beauty brand The Body Shop. In less than a year, more than 5.5 million people worldwide have signed their joint petition, calling for a UN resolution to end cosmetics animal testing across the globe. They are aiming to bring 8 million signatures to the UN by October 2018, which would make it the largest ever animal protection petition. The overwhelming support from the public in more than 60 diverse countries shows clearly that people want international leaders to work together to adopt this resolution. The resolution would also be compatible with the sustainable development goals.
I ask the Minister and the Government to ensure that, once again, we are at the forefront of championing animal rights right across the globe. With sufficient political support from different regions around the world, including our own, member states could submit a resolution under the sustainable development item of the UN General Assembly second committee agenda, ahead of the 74th session in September 2019. That timetable would create enough space for consultation and learning, but would be flexible enough to adapt to change.
The UK Government must continue to lead on this issue. The public are calling for it. Let us stop the cruelty now and make that happen.