Friday, March 2, 2012

Avon, Mary Kay, Estee Lauder, and China

Avon, Mary Kay, and Estée Lauder have recently had a bit of bad PR when Peta removed these companies from their cruelty free shopping list. I personally do not use PETA’s list because the requirements to be on their list are much too lax for me. However, I have gotten multiple emails recently regarding these changes so I felt the need to address this particular issue and the overarching issue with these companies, in particular Estée Lauder and companies like them.

From reading over PETA’s website, it appears the problem for/with these companies is their business with China. China requires all cosmetic products to be animal tested before they are marketed in the country. I have been unable to locate any websites with official statements from the Chinese equivalent of the FDA and can not confirm or deny that all products must be tested in China. Instead of standing up for animal rights, which they claim to care so much about, by not selling in China Avon, Mary Kay, and Estée Lauder have attempted to shift blame onto a third party and act like the situation is out of their hands.

I have never purchased any products from Avon or Mary Kay so I do not have any information on their previous animal testing statements, but I recently received a response from Avon regarding these new developments in China.

Avon states:
“Avon does not conduct animal testing to substantiate the safety of any of its products. In fact, Avon was the first major cosmetics company to end animal testing more than 20 years ago.

Although Avon does not conduct animal testing to substantiate the safety of any of its products, some products may be required by law to undergo additional safety assessment in a few countries at the direction of a government or health agency and this may include animal testing. In these instances Avon always attempts to persuade the requesting authority to accept non-animal test data. If no compromise can be reached, we must comply with the requirement for additional testing. This is an issue facing all global beauty companies. We are not alone in this dilemma, and we continue to push for regulations that do not necessitate the use of animals.

Avon has worked to advance alternatives to animal testing for decades. Avon continues to support research into alternatives conducted by the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME) in the United Kingdom, the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at Johns Hopkins University in the US and the European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing. Most recently Avon joined the Scientific Advisory Panel of The Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS), a non-profit research and testing organization dedicated to the advancement of in vitro (non-animal) methods worldwide and Avon became a Founding Sponsor of the American Society for Cellular Computational Toxicology. Finally, Avon works closely on this issue with other companies in the Beauty industry as a member of the US Personal Care Products Council.

Respect for animal welfare is a cornerstone of our product safety philosophy. We will continue to work actively to advance the use of alternatives to animal testing worldwide. We encourage you to call for the global acceptance of non-animal test data.”

I understand that China must be a large section of Avon’s business especially with this recession cutting profits in a majority of countries. However, Avon only “must comply” if they want to make money in China. Like Avon I work to end animal testing and I can honestly say I would never consider turning a blind eye to animal abuse simply to make money. Maybe animals are important to them but obviously not as important as larger profits.

Also, some research have revealed that Avon was the first company to start selling direct to China once the Chinese government reinstated this practice. The article found here implicates both Mary Kay and Avon in selling to China since 2005 with “new regulations on the direct selling.” I do not know whether these new regulations included mandatory animal testing or whether these practices were already in place, but Mary Kay and Avon obviously knew what they were getting into.

I try not to bash any companies on this blog, but Estée Lauder has really gotten to me this time. I already completed a post on Estée Lauder and its subsidiaries (which include MAC and Clinique) posted under July 2011 if you want to review it. To sum up Estée Lauder (and all their subsidiaries when I last checked) have animal testing statements that stipulate “unless required by law.”

Below is part of a response I received from Estée Lauder in July 2011:
“We have always been against animal testing. Recently, the global regulatory climate has become more stringent and cosmetic companies are being asked to further validate the human and environmental safety of their ingredients and products. We are equally committed to consumer health and safety. Given these increased requirements for ensuring the safety of cosmetic ingredients, animal testing may be legally necessary under certain circumstances when no non-animal test alternative is available or acceptable to governmental/health authorities. Be assured that we will make every effort to avoid having ingredients tested on animals, taking all practical and available steps to see that existing or non-animal test data is used instead. However, if ultimately this is required in order for the Company to sell its products, we will, of course, comply with the law.

Estée Lauder explicitly states that they will test on animals to make money even if they word it differently. An article found here states that Estée Lauder has been direct selling to China since 2006 making it appear that they have been animal testing at least since then. This reaffirms my earlier fears which caused me to stop purchasing from Estée Lauder and its subsidiaries in the first place.

To top it all off I found this article in the New York Times from 2006, the same time period as the above articles, discussing the outsourcing of animal testing to China. I have been unable to find any explicit statements of animal testing on the official Chinese website, so this is the closest I’ve gotten to understanding China’s policies. In fact in the New York Times article, the author states that there is limited information on Chinese vivisection because there is very little regulation and neither the government nor individual companies exert much effort to get any information on what actually occurs.

So lets have a frank discussion. I know many compassionate, caring people have avoided these companies for this exact reason, but there are also many compassionate, caring people who have recently purchased from these companies. Hopefully, this “scandal” will be a wake up call not only in regards to Estée Lauder, Mary Kay, and Avon but to all companies who stipulate “unless when required by law,” do not have a trustworthy organization, such as Leaping Bunny, verifying their claims, and act as a call to consumers across the spectrum buying any product to be aware that companies think they can yank their consumers around with no consequences.

I will seriously be considering whether I should only buy products which are Leaping Bunny certified in the future.

***** I have read that MAC recently changed their animal testing policy, but this is NOT true. As of March 22, 2012 MAC still stipulates "unless required by law." My correspondence with them has been added to my original post on MAC under August 2011 to the right.


  1. I started up as an Avon rep in 2010 and with Oriflame in 2011 because both companies were sold to me as cruelty free cosmetic companies. I have since resigned as a rep for both companies because of the 'required by law' relating to animal testing in China which is in both their statements regarding animal welfare. I have now decided to only buy cosmetics from companies with the leaping bunny logo in future. My feeling is that so far as I can tell, no-one has died or been made unwell by not using cosmetics so there is no reason that I can think of that any cosmetics should be tested on animals.

  2. I completely agree!

    While animal testing in the beauty/cosmetics sector (and even home products, etc.) only makes up a small portion of all vivisection it is so important to change it because we can refuse these product easily since they are not necessary and there are great cruelty free and vegan alternatives.

  3. Arbonne is and always has been PETA approved and Vegan certified. They use third party blind panel testing and ONLY test on willing humans. I trust that line exclusively for not only my health and wellness and ahead of the curve products, but knowing they are always on the up and up when it comes to testing. Yes, I am a consultant for the company, but only bring the companies name up to raise awareness that there are indeed companies that practice what they preach, no matter what part of the world they are in.

    1. Hi Andrea, Thanks for the comment!

      I haven't heard of Arbonne before, but there are definitely companies that keep their word and are truly invested in cruelty free, healthy products. I am working on some posts on cruelty free companies right now since I feel my blog has become a long list of what not to buy (which was not my intention when I started).

      I always think the best policy is to exercise caution though just in case. Companies are for profit and while a cruelty free, healthy product has a market, expanding that market and maximizing profits is a company's goal.

  4. This is very helpful! It is indignant how misleading some companies are by trying to minimize the information about their policy on animal tasting with phrases like "unless required by law, etc". I am glad you have provided us with several examples of those type of companies. I know there are some others that don't do animal testing like sephora, the bodyshop, benefit san Francisco, or burst bees (just to mention a few) so, there are many options out there, and there is no need to contribute to animal maltreatment for some group's profit.

    1. I completely agree!

      I recommend you check out my Burts Bees post under January 2012. I personally do not buy from this brand or the body shop because their parent companies do test on animals. I know everyone has to shop according to their own comfort levels, but I just wanted to make you aware of this in case you did not know that these companies are subsidiaries of larger companies which do test.

  5. Thank you so much for posting this! I recently started up with Mary Kay. I was impressed that they did not test on animals. Then my director was going on and on about how many countries they sell in and named China. I asked her how they could sell in China if they dont approve of testing on animals, and she just shrugged it off and stated the company line, "we never test on animals." After i explained that China REQUIRES this, she just replied, "Well, MK just have found a way around that." Really?? No. Im no longer selling for them.

    1. Wow, Rita! I can't believe that woman was so flippant towards you!

      She should have known selling in China is a red flag for a lot of cruelty free shoppers since this was a huge scandal earlier in the year for all these companies. At least you knew better and could back out of that position quickly. This is why when we email companies we need to ask so many questions about ingredients and third party testing (and it seems the list of questions is growing, no?)

  6. Good morning, Rebekah
    I'll be definately following this blog ;
    I'm interested in knowing more
    About cruelty free products and cruelty free lifestyle.

    My question is if Oriflame , Yves Rocher and Herbalife
    Are cruelty free ?

    And Avon and Estee Lauder?
    So many doubts...I thought Avon and Estee Lauder were/are cruelty free... Kind regards,

    ~ Life

  7. You did an awesome job! If you ever interested in doing a guest post on my blog with the link to your blog... let me know. :) I also did 2 post about cruelty free products. :)
    Check it out if you like and if you would like we can follow each other.
    Let me know I follow back.

  8. Hi Claudia! I'm glad you enjoyed this post! I remember being very animated while writing it lol. Sorry for responding so late, but if you've kept up with my blog you'll see my life has been a bit hectic since September. If you're still interested, I would love to contribute something to your blog. Just let me know!

  9. Does anyone know if Juice Plus if cruelty free? I have an online directory where clients can promote what they sell, and I want it all to be cruelty free (I do Arbonne). Have discovered that Herbalife test but can't find any statement or facts about Juice Plus regarding ethics towards animals etc. i am