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 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.