Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Animal testing - the rabbit in the room

EDIT: I have been discussing this post with a fellow blogger via email, and she's helpfully pointed out that it could be clearer and comes across badly from some points of view. So I am editing the content as of 21/5/10. Edits are in purple.

As a consumer, my stance on animal testing is pretty simple. I don't want to spend my money on brands who test their products or ingredients on animals. I don't think human vanity justifies a living creature's suffering. For medicines, I can accept that it's necessary. But if it's just a case of wanting to look nicer, then for me it's not OK.

But that's about me as an individual. London Beauty Review, which I am only one part of, is not a "cruelty free" blog. But as I am one of the people who use it as a vehicle for writing, it has reflected my views somewhat so far, and quite a lot of products on the market have been omitted from my posts for this reason.

Recently, as the blog has taken off and seen more brand involvement, I have found avoiding the animal testing more and more difficult. We receive a lot of review samples, and for me to pull my weight as part of the blog and still avoid animal tested products is pretty tough. The first consideration is readers and what they want to see, so if we are sent something relevant to our demographic, we do want to cover it whatever it's origin (see Touche Eclat post as at 21/5/10). It's especially awkward when I discover that seemingly "OK" brands are in fact owned by larger, animal testing corporations. (The most obvious example being The Body Shop, which despite its reputation for squeaky clean ethics, is owned by L'Oreal, one of the biggest proponents of animal testing in the world today.)

I have found myself doing a lot of research and hand-wringing over the issue, and I have learned that companies and their marketing agencies can twist words in ways that'll make your head spin. There are all kinds of ways to make products with animal-tested ingredients sound whiter than white. It takes a lot of work to keep up with who owns who and who is doing what, as any cruelty free consumer knows.

I also learned an exciting fact about cosmetic testing legislation. In 2003, a law was passed banning animal testing for cosmetic ingredients/products in the EU, with an enforcible deadline ten years into the future. It will also be illegal to market and sell products whose ingredients were tested outside the EU. I.e. by 2013, everything for sale in our shops will be, by law, cruelty free. The battle against animal testing is now pretty much won in the UK - it's just a question of waiting a couple more years for the practice to stop for good.

With this in mind, and with a lot of thought, I came to a decision about blogging. While my personal beliefs remain the same, I now have a new set of considerations. Namely, that in line with the mission of LBR, I want to provide thorough and representative coverage of the UK cosmetics market in my blog posts. So when a review sample is offered to me, and I know it's going to be of interest to the readers, I'm no longer going to say an outright "no" if it doesn't meet my personal criteria on animal testing.  

Please note that I am limiting this to review samples not because I like a freebie, but because I still don't want to put my hand in my pocket to fund animal testing. If the blog gets sent something, I want to do my share of the work in terms of reviewing. But I am not going to go so far as to purchase items that fund animal testing myself. If they come to me, I'll handle them my way. But I'm not going out looking for them. Make sense?

Instead, here is what I plan to do. (Note "I" - this is about my blog posts, not LBR as a whole.) As with our "freebie" dislcosure, I will add a note to any posts where I know that the product I am discussing is produced by a company that engages in animal testing (or is owned by a larger company that does). That way, readers can get the low-down on the product with a review, and make their own decision about purchasing it based on their own beliefs, instead of being blinkered by mine.

I don't think I am doing either the blog or myself any favours by pretending that animal testing companies and their products don't exist. There are blogs that provide a fully cruelty-free review and FOTD/EOTD resource, but LBR is not one of them - it's not the remit of the blog. If people come here, they can't/don't assume that everything is cruelty free. The animal testing concern is my personal issue alone. If I can provide a review for those who aren't too worried about the issue, that's great for them. If I can also explicitly share my knowledge about what is and isn't animal tested at the same time, I feel that that is also a useful disclosure. It means I can do my share of the work of this blog, and also spread some awareness about companies who test on animals at the same time.

It's not a perfect solution, but in the short interim until animal testing companies are forced to change their ways for good, I think it is the best I can come up with. Roll on 2013!

I hope this will be helpful to you, and that I haven't lost too much respect for compromising my principles.


  1. I'm not really sure that you have compromised your principles - your blog is an information source for people to use to decide whether to make a purchase - including info on animal testing means that you are giving readers info on both how well the product works as well as information on ethics. You aren't saying that you are going to personally begin to use animal tested products, but will be providing information for those that do.

    I'm not condoning animal testing by the way - but a review is meant to be an impartial appraisal of a product and its properties, which is what you have always and will continue to do so, but will be providing extra information for your readers - This might actually in turn raise awareness of the issue, which may mean that people can make more ethical choices should they wish.

  2. I understand where you're coming from, and this isn't a personal attack BUT if you felt that strongly about animal testing then surely you wouldn't want to 'promote' animal tested products?

    Please don't be offended, just my humble opinion


  3. Ok firstly I'm totally with you on the whole against animal cosmetics testing.

    But what I do not understand is why you would go against it;

    'But if it's just a case of wanting to look nicer, then for me it's not OK.'

    How can you say you're dead against animal testing yet you're going to accept PR products, whether they've been tested on animals or not.

    I get that you want to blog for other people but shouldn't you, first and foremost blog for yourself.

    Take a look at OxfordJasmine, she is extremely popular and completely and utterly cruelty free. I admire that.

    I really don;t think you've justified yourself at all though. If you felt so strongly against cosmetics companies testing on animals, there is no way you would use products whether they were sent to you or not.

  4. @mizzworthy thanks for your detailed comment! I'm definitely hoping that highlighting it will be ultimately positive, but we'll see. It might be that I just attract flak, but at least I'm acknowledging the issue if nothing else.

    @Nooberella I totally understand that concern, and it's one of the things that I was most worried about. But as mizzworthy says, it's not promoting, it's reviewing - neutral and impartial, and I'm not going to gloss over the animal testing aspect in the reviews. I don't feel it's for me to censor product choices on readers' behalf. Thanks for speaking honestly.

    @Bicky "Shouldn't you blog for yourself?" - well, according to whose rules? This blog is about readers, it's not a personal blog. If it were there wouldn't be any question about it. I am aware of OxfordJasmine's blog, which is a great example of a cruelty free blog. Our blog is not cruelty free per se, and has never claimed to be. It's a review site, that's where the emphasis lies. I have tried to be clear about my reasoning, but I don't feel that I need to "justify myself". Thanks for sharing your opinions - it's very useful feedback.

  5. I still don;t think you can be that against it if you're willing to use animal tested products yet you've said yourself, it isn't justifiable but there we go.

  6. Well I did not realise that about the body shop!!

    I also heard that a lot of companies that don’t test on animals, and have never tested on animals, piggy back off companies that have. For example if one company tested and found a certain ingredient to work, the ‘animal friendly’ company would then start using it too without the need to do any animal testing themselves.

    It seems its actually very difficult to avoid products or ingredients that are not and have never been tested on animals, I bet at least half my products are associated with it in some way. Even though I do try and avoid it.

    As far as respect goes, you've still got mine.

  7. you've definitely got my respect. i might not like animal testing but i don't specifically avoid products or companies that engage in animal testing. maybe it's because my parents are scientists and helped pioneer research that has saved lives today. unforunately animals died or were harmed in the process of ironing out these research methods and applications but i'd rather they have tested it on animals while they were getting it right before testing it on humans.

    do i think animal cruelty is right? no...but with new legislation coming in i feel that we're on the right trend.

    i am happy that we are approaching/have approached a point in science where we do not need to test on animals any longer.

    but i'll never flat out say it should be outlawed as i have seen the benefits.

    you definitely still have my respect and readership.


  8. @Anonymous it was a real shock when Anita Roddick sold TBS to L'Oreal. It was a few years back now. They claim to still be "against animal testing" but I don't see how that can be, since their profits go to an organisation that openly performs animal testing.

    @dailypolish I studied Biology at university and I'm not sentimental about the issue - it's a question of needs must for me, and I recognise that there are times when it is something we have to do. I also feel that there are a lot of misleading and heavily sensationalised depictions of animal testing going around. In reality it doesn't happen often and animals are generally anesthetised, from what I read.

    @Bicky I can't help noticing jsut from your tag cloud that you have reviewed several items from animal testing companies (YSL, Maybelline) on your own blog. Maybe you should start in your own back yard if you want to wage war on the animal testing companies, rather than flaming me on Twitter.

  9. You've not lost my respect. Like I said on twitter, you take your blog a lot more professionally than the rest of us, most of our blogs are personal blogs which we do as a hobby. I could at first see where Bicky was coming from, but now you've mentioned about reviews shes posted on her own blog Im not too sure. Guess I'll just have to keep stopping by to see Bickys response.


  10. @Jo I didn't actually see your comment on twitter. A lot of the bitching went down on accounts I don't actually follow, and I was only made aware of it when I got a supportive DM from someone who did follow. I am glad you think the blog is "professional" (shame it doesn't pull in a wage, but still!). I am going to edit this post as I'm not sure it's entirely clear where I'm coming from on this issue. I'm glad to still have your respect. x

  11. Oooo imagine if we all pulled in a wage! that'd be fantastic haha. I'd have the perfect job! lol.


  12. I am aware of that and if you'd have read my disclaimer then you would have seen that was before I actually looked into it. I really can't be assed with this though. Like I said, yes I've bought AT stuff in the past but it plans on staying that way. I haven't bought from them for a long long time and don't plan to.

  13. @Bicky If I didn't pick that up I doubt new readers would either. It seems like you've got plenty of time and energy to spare trashing other bloggers. Time which could have been better spent amending or deleting the posts that promote animal tested products. Glad you can't be "assed" anymore, maybe you'll stop the negativity as a result.

  14. I thought this was a brave post to write, and I applaud you for it. Get Lippie is also not a "cruelty-free" blog, though I'd like it to be, and this is partially why my "Organic" series was borne, to give a platform to smaller, vegan (usually), cosmetics firms, alongside the better known cosmetic purveyors.

    As you say, it can be difficult to keep up with who owns who in the business these days, and I admire your principled stance as much as I do your efforts to make things clear for your readers.

  15. Have you seen this?

    I'm v. concerned about animal testing myself, and what especially concerns me is not knowing where we stand with the future status of animal testing for cosmetic purposes. On the one hand I hear that it's got to stop by 2013, but then this 'super-legislation' from Brussels seems to say the exact opposite. I'd be grateful for any clarification you can offer on this subject?

    I'm not 'anonymous' for any nefarious reason, btw, I just haven't been on this site before! (But will almost certainly come back!)


  16. If you wanted to use cruelty free products then you would. You choose not to. If I get any free products that I know have been tested on animals, they go straight in the bin. That's commitment to the cause. You can't say you don't agree with it and that it shouldn't happen, then say that you feel that animal testing is 'sensationalised'. It's a complete contradiction. If you want to use animal tested products, that's up to you, but don't try and make out it bothers you when it clearly doesn't. We have free choice in this world, just have courage in your convictions.

    1. It's not a contradiction at all. Plenty of things that are wrong are blown out of all proportion. Also, don't presume to tell me, a stranger on the internet, how I feel. Your commitment to your cause is your business - go pat yourself on the back somewhere else. Thanks.


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