Animal Experimentation (Cosmetics)

– in the House of Commons at 4:36 pm on 28th January 1992.

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Photo of Mr Jimmy Dunnachie Mr Jimmy Dunnachie , Glasgow Pollok 4:36 pm, 28th January 1992

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit the use of animals in the development and testing of cosmetics.

The Bill would end animal testing for cosmetic purposes. I am asking the Government to give offical support to a view that is widely held by hon. Members and their constituents.

In the 1988–89 Session, more than 300 hon. Members from all parties signed early-day motions calling for an end to animal testing for cosmetic purposes. A recent survey showed that more than 50 per cent. of Conservative Members and more than 75 per cent. of Opposition Members supported such a ban. Some 85 per cent. of people interviewed in a recent opinion poll felt that this type of animal testing was unacceptable. That strength of feeling was reflected in last November's rally in Brussels, when 4,000 people from all over Europe protested against it, lending support to the 2.5 million-signature petition which was delivered to the European Parliament. Support from Members of the European Parliament was so strong that the Parliament is likely to recommend a ban soon.

At home, the Prime Minister was drawn into the debate when, in a letter dated 27 November 1989, he admitted to being a member of the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments, an organisation that seeks to find methods of research that do not use live animals. He said: The general public can play a very considerable part by refusing to buy cosmetics unless they are clearly stated to have been made without the use of tests on live animals.

What sort of goods are we talking about? It is not just colour cosmetics such as face powder, eye shadow and lipstick but a host of everyday toiletries. How many hon. Members could look round their bathrooms and recognise those products: toothpastes such as Ultrabrite, Colgate, Blue Minty Gel, Mentadent and Signal; shampoos which include Alberto Balsam, VO5, Cream Silk, Head and Shoulders. Timotei and Silkience; other hair products such as Harmony, Clairol, Nice 'n' Easy, Glints, Sunsilk, Free Style and Recital; Deodorants such as Mum, Fresh and Dry, Right Guard and Sure; soaps such as Camay and Palmolive; and items such as Pond's cold cream, vaseline, Ambre Solaire and Cutex nail products?

At Christmas, how many bought loved ones cosmetics by Helena Rubinstein, Vichy or Lancome; stocking-fillers by Studio Line; and perfumes such as Safari, Fiji, Anaïs Anaïs, Armani and Shiseido? How many bought Cachet, Rave or Impulse? How much Lynx, Denim and Polo aftershave was bought?

Those are only some of the brand names of companies such as Alberto-Culver, Cheesebrough-Ponds, Colgate-Palmolive, Elida-Gibbs, Gillette UK Ltd., Bristol-Myers, Proctor and Gamble, L'Oreal UK Ltd. and Shiseido—all of them listed among the chief offenders in the animal-testing stakes.

L'Oreal, for example, while claiming that it prides itself on respecting…animals and avoiding any suffering and stress to them recently kept mini-pigs in solitary confinement for 14 months while it exposed them three times a week to ultra-violet light to test for sun damage to the skin. What price now that golden suntan?

In 1990, in Britain alone, more than 4,000 procedures for testing cosmetics and toiletries were carried out using live animals—mainly guinea pigs and rabbits—to say nothing of the huge numbers carried out by parent companies abroad.

What sort of tests are we talking about? One of the most inhumane must surely be the Draize eye test conducted on rabbits, which are pinned down to have substances dropped regularly into their eyes to see if they blister or bleed. Rabbits are chosen, of course, because they have very poor tear ducts and cannot wash away the substances easily. In 1990, 300 such tests were carried out.

Another common test for skin irritancy is where a rabbit or guinea pig has its back shaved and a substance rubbed in it and it is held in place for weeks on end. Sometimes the rabbit's back is roughened up with hypodermic needles or sandpaper. Often, the results are cracked skin, blistering and bleeding.

Do we really need to use animals at all to test cosmetics and their ingredients. The answer is no. There are plenty of alternative and more reliable methods. Computer models, chemical models, reconstructed skin tests, the use of isolated skin tissues and human volunteers can all be used to test for irritancy, allergy, cancer risk and exposure to light.

Add to that the fact that animal tests are unreliable, and the justification for using them vanishes. Comparative tests carried out at the Huntingdon research centre using mice, guinea pigs, mini-pigs, piglets, rabbits, dogs and baboons showed that the tests produced different results on different animals. So how can they be expected to produce reliable results for human use? As Professor Salzbury, researching for Pfizer, said when asked to comment on the reliability of animal testing: We would be better off tossing a coin". At least there would be a 50:50 chance of being right.

There could perhaps be occasions when animal testing for medical reasons might be justified, so clearly a line must be drawn between products that are genuinely medical and those that claim to be medical—just because an ad man sells them that way. I am thinking of all the claims made for the various toothpastes, for example. In the same way, the British consumer is all too often conned because there is no legal definition of the term "cruelty-free" and no dictionary of acceptable ingredients such as the one that operates in the United States.

As more than 8,000 ingredients have already been established as safe to use, I suggest that the only excuse companies have to use animal tests to extend that list is profit. I contend that the need to protect innocent animals from the clutches of such international profiteers is paramount.

The current European campaign seeks to ban any cosmetic product or ingredient that has been tested on animals, and Britain can give a clear lead here. Under the terms of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, all procedures must be covered by a project licence. Section 5(4) of the Act allows the Home Secretary discretionary powers to refuse to grant a licence where he feels the adverse effect on the animals outweighs any benefits that are likely to accrue.

I therefore ask the Home Secretary to refuse to grant new licences for animal testing for cosmetic purposes, as there are already plenty of ingredients available for new products and plenty of equally—if not more—reliable methods for cosmetic testing. At the same time, I ask the Government to give a legal definition to toiletries and cosmetics so that they may not be confused with medical products. I also ask that a dictionary of acceptable ingredients be compiled so that the British consumer is protected against false claims when buying cosmetics.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie, Mr. Don Dixon, Sir Teddy Taylor, Mr. Alan Meale, Mr. Phillip Oppenheim, Mr. Jimmy Wray, Mr. Gordon McMaster, Mr. Frank Haynes, Mr. James Pawsey, Mr. Archy Kirkwood and Mr. Norman Hogg.