Your clients are appealing, fluffy animals and if you can kick up a
fuss about them being mutilated and killed, you will help the profits of
several of the largest and most trusted British retailers. Your
supporters range from Ann Widdecombe to Joanna Lumley. The opposition
consists of large multinationals who want to keep testing cosmetics on
Even Tim-nice-but-dim should have been able to handle this one. Yet, it
has taken 11 years to get the Government to introduce the most basic
restrictions on animal testing of cosmetics. Meanwhile the use of
animals in producing genetically-engineered products and in the defence
industry has soared. Public opinion is overwhelmingly against
non-medical animal experimentation so this is a simple failure of PR to
turn opinion into commercial and political pressure.
The hullabaloo last week over a ban on cosmetic tests on animals
obscured the insignificance of the victory. The rules will affect about
0.1 per cent of animal tests done in the UK and spare about 1,200
animals a year.
There is nothing to stop the tests being done abroad and the cosmetics
produced being sold in the UK. Public opinion would have supported far
more radical change: a 1996 MORI poll said that 73 per cent would
support an EU ban on the sale of animal-tested cosmetics.
Cosmetic tests have fallen from 24,000 in 1977 to the current level, but
even this looks rather hollow next to the five million animals killed
each year in labs before anyone even gets around to experimenting on
At some point, the PR people within the animal rights movement will get
their act together. Last week’s launch of a clear labelling system for
’humane cosmetics’ may be the first sign of new competence.
Medical researchers argue that animal experimentation is a reasonable
price to pay for an HIV vaccine or a cure for breast cancer. Most people
will agree. Most of the medical establishment has, though, allowed
itself to be suckered into defending all animal testing. It has
permitted the search for cures for disease to be mixed up with the
search for more fragrant fabric conditioners.
When the anti-vivisectionists do rally, we may all regret the health
industry’s choice of allies as stiff new regulations block real medical