Testing on animals occurs for a wide range of reasons including scientific, medical, veterinary and curiosity driven research. In industry testing on animals often occurs in order to evaluate the safety and environmental impact of the chemicals that are the basis of a huge variety of products in everyday use. This includes, for example, paints, dyes, plastics, pesticides, household cleaners and food additives. As a result, animal testing is an issue that potentially is of concern to every business. Testing on animals, however, is a highly charged topic and there is vigorous debate about whether experiments on animals are necessary, useful or justified. There are increasing non-animal alternatives available.
While, in many countries, including the UK there is legislation and regulation of what should be tested, and which tests on animals should be carried out, the level of control will vary between jurisdictions. Within a global economy, it can be difficult to identify what is tested, where and how, especially since animal experiments are often shrouded in secrecy. Since 2013, there has been a complete EU ban on testing cosmetics, and ingredients for cosmetics, on animals but other jurisdictions allow it or, in the case of China, can mandate it (though categories of soap and shampoo will not require testing before sale in China from 2014 provided it is locally manufactured/bottled). Replacing the use of animals with humane alternatives is now the stated goal of many regulatory regimes, using the ‘3 Rs’ approach. These three principles are:
- Replace a procedure that uses animals with a procedure that doesn't use animals
- Reduce the number of animals used in a procedure
- Refine a procedure to alleviate or minimize potential animal pain
In many cases, businesses can use existing ingredients that have a history of safe use or those for which there are no regulatory demands, such as certain natural products. Most businesses are not obliged to use ingredients, materials or products which require new animal testing. There remain, however, specific requirements for testing in limited sectors such as drugs development. It is important to note that some animal testing may be carried out not because regulation demands it, but because manufacturers incorrectly assume or perceive that it is required to demonstrate the safety of their products. Any company, however, is in a position to actively support a 3Rs approach.
The only internationally recognised scheme that enables consumers to easily identify and purchase cosmetics, personal care and household products that have not been tested on animals is the ‘Leaping Bunny’ certification programme. The Cruelty Free International website gives details and lists all companies approved worldwide. These use a 'Fixed Cut Off Date' (see Glossary below) as a way of continuously reducing the amount of animal testing whilst also recognising that it has happened in the past. The certification programme is recognised globally by the 'Leaping Bunny' logo, which compliant companies can choose to display on their packaging, website and publicity materials.
Other companies either do not apply a ‘Fixed Cut Off Date’, or apply a ‘Rolling Rule’ policy and both approaches mean that the company does not end its involvement with animal testing (and they cannot achieve ‘Leaping Bunny’ certification for any of their eligible products).