The U.S. cosmetic industry is largely increasing, estimated to amount to about 62.46 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, yet the cosmetic industry has been using outdated practices that are costly and, at times, inhumane. According to PETA, around 100 million animals are burned, crippled, poisoned, and abused every year in America alone. Companies have the option of using new, innovative practices in place of particularly inhumane animal testing. However, in the majority of cases, unethical animal testing continues because some companies insist on using antiquated practices. According to the Humane Society, the registration of a single new ingredient harms as many as 12,000 animals. Due to international differences in regulatory standards, certain countries such as China and Brazil require further testing for imported cosmetic products. Why is this important? This complicates matters for companies who must expend resources on additional animal tests, increasing the likelihood of animal abuse.
Let us not lead you to believe that all animal testing is terribly inhumane. Just as the FDA supervises food and drug safety for humans, there exists organizations and companies that advocate for all animal rights as well. For the last 50 years, scientists have been able to extract Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL), a reagent component to the horseshoe crab’s characteristic blue blood. This component coagulates in the presence of toxic bacterial contamination in pharmaceutical drugs. After scientists obtain the blue blood from the horseshoe crabs, they are safely returned to the ocean. “The LAL test replaced the rather horrifying prospect of possibly contaminated substances being tested on large colonies of rabbits”. However, human interference upon any animal species has repercussions. The horseshoe crabs have experienced declines in population. Ensuring the safety of medicine for human consumption inevitably involves trade-offs.
One alternative to animal testing lies in human epidermis models. They are essentially laboratory reconstructions that mimic the appearance, composition, and biochemical behavior of human skin. These reconstructions are derived from cells that produce keratin, a protein that is one of the primary, structural components of our outermost layer of skin. Human epidermis models are used to test if a single substance or mixture has the potential to cause skin irritations, yet this practice has not yet been widely implemented. They are able to replace the well-known Draize Test, that involves using rabbits to test eye and dermal irritation. Further research on epidermis models aims to extend its usage to testing other factors such as toxicity. Companies that use these human epidermis models include EPISKIN and EpiDerm.
Considering these alternatives and tradeoffs for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, what is your stance on animal testing?
Companies that do not use animal testing have the
leaping bunny logo or PETA’s logo on their product.
A complete list of all companies who do not
harm these critters can be found here.
[GRAPHIC] To visually see the abuse in the UK laboratories: Click Here.
Opinion article by: Rachel Grace Fritz
Photo from Human Society.