Vivisection is a term that make many shudder, even if they do not know what it means. Vivisection is technically defined as procedures, such as surgical (minor and major) that are performed on living beings, for the purpose of performing experiments. While vivisection, or animal testing, is conducted for many purposes, such as medical procedures and pharmaceuticals, we will be focusing on the use of animal testing in personal care items, such as cosmetics, hygiene products and other general beauty products.
The subjects of animal testing are commonly rodents, such as mice and rats, and also famously include rabbits. For the purpose of cosmetics, a test called the Draize Test (named after the toxicologist who developed the test in 1944) is used. This is where a small amount of the test substance is placed in the eye or on the skin of the animal, generally a rabbit, and kept there for as long as two weeks in order to test the products effects on these areas. If the test causes irreversible damage, then the animal is euthanized. If it does not, then the product is washed from the animal so that the animal can later be used for further testing.
Currently the US does not require that cosmetics be tested on animals, they only specify that the cosmetics be safe with no definition of how this is done. Animal testing is also not prohibited by US law. While there are no specifications on how the safety of a cosmetic must be tested, some companies choose to test on animals. Other cosmetic companies, such as Mary Kay, Avon and Benefit, will not test products in the US, since it is not required, but will test on animals if it is required in another country where they would like to distribute their beauty products. Many companies will go off of old data from previous tests so to not have to test on animals to prove a products safety, but if a new raw material is desired in their product, they may opt to use animal testing. Some who are staunchly opposed to animal testing, but want to prove a product’s safety, will only use testing data from tests performed long ago, such as prior to 1990, so as not to perpetuate further testing in today’s laboratories.
There have been many efforts launched to stop needless animal testing and the organization leading the cause is the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS). Founded in 1883, the goal of the organization was to regulate the use of animals in testing, but within a few years changed its stance to be for the complete abolition of animal testing. The mission of the Anti-Vivisection Society is to “unequivocally oppose and work to end experimentation on animals and to oppose all other forms of cruelty to animals.” Today, the AAVS includes campaigns aimed to end several issues facing animals today, including pound seizure, where unclaimed shelter animals are sold to research, cloning animals for use as laboratory subjects, and, of course, animal testing. Most notably. the AAVS is one of the founders of the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, which created the Leaping Bunny program.
For more information on the American Anti-Vivisection Society, visit their website.