By V. Victoria Shroff
"The humane treatment of animals is undoubtedly a matter that preoccupies many Canadians." As an animal-law lawyer of 20 years, I agree. Obviously.
It was a great statement on June 3, 2019, by MP Pam Damoff—parliamentary secretary to the health ministe—about Bill S-214, the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act. The new law would have prohibited cosmetic testing on animals and the sale of cosmetics either manufactured or developed using animal testing.
Damoff went on to reference 630,000 signatures on a petition submitted by the Body Shop and noted that a 2013 poll commissioned by Humane Society International/Canada and the Animal Alliance of Canada showed that more than 80 percent of Canadians fully support a ban on cosmetic animal testing.
Quick history about this animal-testing-for-cosmetics bill: it's not a new bill. In 2018, about a year prior to Damoff's pro-animal remark, the biIl passed third reading in the Senate, where it originated and was met with widespread support across party lines. In fact, the bill was introduced years prior by Conservative Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen and had already been hanging around like caked-on makeup since 2015. So why still no animal-cosmetic-testing ban in Canada by mid-2019 when the bill was finally poised to become law?
"Animal welfare is an issue that Canadians of all political stripes care about. A Conservative Senator introduced #S214, for example. It is inexplicable that the Conservative sponsor in the House sat on the bill until so late in the parliamentary session that it will now die."—June 4, 2019, tweet from Nate Erskine-Smith, Liberal MP and animal supporter.
Quite. The bill was introduced too late in 2019 and ran out of time before the parliamentary session ended, so mice, rats, rabbits, and guinea pigs, the animals most frequently used in cosmetic testings, will, sadly, need to wait and continue to be exposed as hapless cosmetic-test subjects just so someone can get that exact shade of ruby-fuchsia lipstick.
Canada needs to catch up on this one. It's a shame because our nation did so well in June 2019 with the passing of some great animal-welfare bills regarding cetaceans, shark finning, bestiality, and animal fighting. I will be discussing the June animal legislative victories this autumn with our new crop of animal-law students when I co-teach animal law at the Allard School of Law at UBC, and I will also mention Bill S-214, the bill that went splat in the Commons.
In many countries, multibillion-dollar transnational cosmetic companies and their suppliers continue to routinely use animals as part of their cosmetic testing. In fact, China, the largest cosmetics market in the world, legally requires some ingredients and final products to be tested on animals. It appears that one of the reasons for the parliamentary delays may have been related to major stakeholders in the cosmetics industry who wanted a loophole inserted into the bill that would allow data garnered via animal testing in other sectors, such as environmental industries, to be used in cosmetics. It seems like a slippery slope to allow this data to sneak in as an exemption. Conservative Senator Marilyn Gladu stated in June 2019: "If we want to sell in China, we have to do animal testing in order to sell the product there." The commerce angle. Of course.
Think of the horrors that animals undergo to test cosmetics safety for human use. Mice and guinea pigs are used as skin-sensitization subjects. The test ingredient is slathered onto the surface of a mouse or a guinea pig's skin or injected to see if ulcers, scaling, or inflammation occur. Rabbits get shaved and the test substance is applied to their skin while the cosmetic-company scientist waits for signs of distress, itchiness, scaling, and more.
And those are the lucky test subjects. Worse off are the rabbits whose eyes are injected with chemicals or have a chemical spread onto their eyeballs to test for corneal corrosion, ulceration, or irritation. Is it any wonder that the vast majority of Canadians polled are against the nightmares of cosmetic animal testing?
The "leaping bunny" is an international symbol that you see on packaging, a symbol that guarantees a cosmetic or cleaning product and its ingredients have not been tested on animals. The leaping bunny is frowning on Canada.
It is more than possible to test for chemical reactions to substances without testing on animals. The Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods at the University of Windsor—which aims to develop and promote education of viable alternate methods of scientific study not using animals—have shown that there are many different types of validated, alternative test methods available. Companies can continue to capture a share of the billion-dollar cosmetic pie without harming animals. Many large profitable cosmetic companies simply utilize safe existing ingredients instead of purchasing new chemicals that require further testing. It can and has been done and eliminates the archaic use of animals in cosmetic testing in 2019.
Twenty-seven European Union countries already banned cosmetic animal testing 10 years ago. Canada could have been the 40th in the world to ban animal testing for beauty products—a runner-up, for sure, and well behind New Zealand, India, and Israel, to name a few.
Instead, we're still just waiting in the wings to see what happens during the next session in Ottawa. And the leaping bunny frowns.