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Cruelty-Free (Part 2) - Moving away from animal testing & China's laws explained

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Written by Christina Storto on 2018/08/05


Most prominent in the global plight to move away from animal testing is the European Union. After animal testing was first banned in Germany in 1986, and in the UK in 1998, a law was fully implemented across the EU in 2013 to make it illegal to sell animal-tested cosmetics in Europe, even if the testing was done outside Europe – an amazing achievement.

This sales ban made it clear that animal testing is wrong and – further – that profiting from this is immoral. Executives from cosmetics companies around the world now know that if they want to sell their products to the EU’s 500 million consumers, they need to take a hard look at their policies. The result has been a boom in investment in non-animal testing methods.

Since that time many countries have stepped up and put in place progressive and compassionate new rules.  Israel, India, Norway, New Zealand, South Korea, Turkey, Taiwan and parts of Brazil have all banned testing of cosmetics on animals. The USA however, still allows testing on animals for cosmetic purposes. Only three states,  California, New Jersey and New York have passed laws stating that available alternatives to animal tests are to be used for cosmetic testing.



EU ban has pushed cosmetics companies and scientists to step up their efforts to develop humane alternative tests that could be used to check the safety of cosmetics without forcing animals to suffer. This is science at its best – developing innovative, progressive, humane solutions that are cheaper, more reliable and more effective than the old-fashioned, cruel tests they replace.

But sadly, this isn’t enough. The aim of the initiative is to achieve a global ban on animal testing of cosmetics by 2023, but right now around 80 percent of countries worldwide still allow cosmetics tested on animals despite the fact that reliable alternatives are available.

Not only would a global ban on animal testing in cosmetics products and ingredients help to protect millions of animals around the world, it would also revolutionize the beauty industry.




The "Leaping Bunny" symbol is universally recognized as the symbol for cruelty-free products, and now some big name beauty companies have lost their bunnies. Why?

...because they want to sell in China!....

Every brand wants a piece of China because it has huge sales potential. It is the world's largest consumer market but the country has a strict animal testing law stating that all imported beauty products must undergo animal testing before human use.

A company can meet all of the above cruelty-free credentials but sell their products in China, where it is required by law that products must be tested on animals before they are sold in their country.  Until China changes their animal testing requirements, any brand that is available for sale in China is not cruelty-free. The bottom line is that if you sell to China, the Chinese government will require those products to undergo animal testing. Even if their products are completely cruelty-free up until that point, then become complicit in supporting the continued use of animal testing. Hence the loss of the Leaping Bunny and cannot be considered cruelty free.

However, cruelty-free companies can manufacture or make their cosmetics in China just as long as they are not selling their product in-stores in China, then none of their products are required to be tested on animals as required by China’s laws.

The only exception could be made is selling in Hong Kong. Although Hong Kong is part of China, they have their own political system and Hong Kong does not follow the same animal testing requirements as Mainland China. For instance, Lush sells products in Hong Kong, but not in the rest of China. This could be the case for other brands that are “sold in China”.


The answer sadly boils down to $money$: China is a huge market for the beauty industry. A report from Morgan Stanley states that China is now “the world's largest beauty market”, representing almost 20 per cent of the global market. That makes it a bigger market than the US (around 17 per cent) and way bigger than the UK (just under four per cent.)

This makes it increasingly interesting and attractive for many cosmetic brands. Beauty companies who were previously cruelty-free are returning to animal testing to exploit the Chinese demand putting profits from the Chinese market above principal. So it comes down to, allowing animal testing or losing access to a cosmetic market worth 26 billion (according to Euromonitor)
 Also, even though testing on animals isn’t mandatory anymore for local products, it’s not banned. So even though there are alternative testing methods available for those products, animal testing might still be preferred.

 To be cruelty-free these are the stipulations brands must follow:

•  No animal testing conducted by their company on any finished product or ingredient.
•  No animal testing conducted by their suppliers.
•  No animal testing conducted by third parties on behalf of the company.
•  No animal testing where required by law.

How is China moving away from animal testing?
On June 30th 2014, China lifted the animal testing requirement for cosmetics manufactured within the country. While this is a big and important step, it’s important to emphasize that cosmetics manufactured outside of China are still confined to the same animal testing law. While there are alternatie ways of testing the safety of beauty products, experts said china currently lack the know-how The Chinese Food and Drug Administration in 2014 said it would educate and train provincial labs in alternative testing methods.



  • Only cosmetics sold in-stores in Mainland China are required to be tested on animals
  • Cosmetics that are made in China are not required to be tested on animals
  • China’s animal testing requirements only apply to cosmetics sold in-stores and does not extend to cosmetics sold online
  • Hong Kong is exempt from China’s animal testing laws as they have their own political system
  • Products that are manufactured in China, but not sold in China, are not required to be tested on animals. A company can manufacture their products in China and maintain their cruelty free status. 
  • In general, it’s only products that are being sold in China that are required to be tested on animals. .
  • Products can be made in Hong Kong and sold there without being tested on animals at all.


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