PhotoThere’s a longstanding debate (which we doubt will be settled anytime soon) regarding where to strike the balance between human needs and animal rights.

At one extreme, you have people who insist humans and animals are practically equal: eating any meat is as bad as cannibalism, they say, and owning any animal as evil as owning a human slave. At the other extreme, you have people insisting animals deserve no consideration at all: abolish all animal-cruelty laws, they say, and don’t worry about “humane” conditions for livestock.

But most people are somewhere in the middle: it’s okay to eat animals, they say, and “use” them to benefit humans, but at the same time we ought to be humane about it, and not subject animals to unnecessary suffering.

Of course, that still leaves plenty of room for disagreement: exactly what constitutes “humane” treatment? What suffering is “unnecessary?” And some of the strongest disagreements center around the issue of testing cosmetic products on animals — on the one hand, we don’t want people risking their health via wearing dangerous makeup, but on the other hand, it’s very difficult to use words like “necessary” and “eyeshadow” together in the same sentence while keeping a straight face.

But on the other other hand, technology has advanced to the point where, while we might still need to test drugs and medicines on animals, there are superior non-animal alternatives for testing cosmetics.

With this background in mind, we call your attention to a news story out of China — which, you might recall, has spent the last few years fighting off scandal after scandal related to the export of unsafe, contaminated food  including dog food — and household products.  

 Cruelty Free International (a UK-based nonprofit which describes itself as “the only global organisation working solely to end animal testing for cosmetics and consumer products”), sent out a press release praising a “Non-animal cosmetics testing breakthrough reported in China”:

Cruelty Free International welcomes reports that the Chinese Food and Drug Administration propose to abolish the requirement for animal testing for cosmetics for domestically manufactured ordinary products (such as shampoo, skincare or perfume) from June 2014. Instead it proposes that industry should now have the option to assess the safety of a substance based on the toxicological profile of ingredients, similar to the Cosmetic Product Safety Report under the EU Cosmetic Regulations. China will thereafter consider further steps for imports and special-use cosmetics based on the experiences.

Last August, Bloomberg business news told the story of a legal Catch-22 facing the French company L’Oreal, as it attempted to increase international sales:

“While L’Oreal is barred by European Union rules from testing on animals within the EU, China’s government requires such trials for every new beauty product. China is the only major market where companies must test their mascaras and lotions on animals.”

The Bloomberg quote continues with some nausea-inducing details regarding exactly what such testing involves.

So it looks like China’s status as the last major world market requiring cosmetic testing on animals will end next June, if these proposed new anti-cruelty regulations come into force.

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