Monday, 11 June 2012

Urban Decay to sell in China and lose cruelty-free status

image from

It's been impossible not to notice the overwhelmingly negative response to this issue around the beauty blogosphere this week. If you haven't heard, the gist is that Urban Decay are planning to move into the Chinese market. In doing so it will no longer be classed as a cruelty-free brand entitled to use the Leaping Bunny label on its products. The way the beauty industry in China is  set up means that finished products can be tested on animals before being sold to the Chinese public. In agreeing to be sold in China, UD are effectively giving the OK for their products to be animal tested.

The company has circulated a release giving their reasons for the move. For them, the risk of animal testing on their products is outweighed by the potential to raise awareness about animal testing and women's issues within China. They're hoping to change things from the inside. (We've all heard that before, right?) "The battleground for animal rights is now in China", they say. (If only that were true - large numbers of the UK's beauty products are still not cruelty free.)

It also can't be overlooked that the Chinese market has incredible economic potential at the moment. I doubt if UD would have bent their principles otherwise, although they say they don't stand to make a profit in China for some time.

This isn't the first time an idealistic company dedicated to ending animal testing has gone back on its promises for the sake of commerce - some readers will remember the outrage when Anita Roddick sold the Body Shop to L'Oreal (who still own it) in 2006, with similar statements about changing things from the inside.

On a personal level, I'm honestly gutted by this. Intellectually, I know Urban Decay is a business, and that their products are meant to make money, not just to make people happy. But the fact is they have made me happy over the years - probably more so than I've realised, given how low this news now makes me feel. I'm not sure I'm going to feel the same way when I use my UD products, or get the same rush of excitement about their new releases in future. Maybe this reaction will subside, but for now all I can feel is sadness.

What's your reaction to this news? Will you still buy UD products? Do you think they should reverse their decision?


  1. This is really awful. I understand China is a huge market for them, but a lot of the rest of the world will stop buying them due to this decision. Surely ethics have to be a priority? xx

    1. This is consumer capitalism in action. Ethics are an optional extra, but profit and growth are sacred. *helpless shrug*

    2. I do wonder if it's going to prove to be a sensible move capitalistically speaking. It seems likely they're going to lose a lot of sales around the world as a result of this - it will be interesting to see if this turns out to be the case.

      Also worth keeping an eye out for news of any progress at all in the Chinese government's attitude to animal testing - whatever else, there may well be officials there, too, who are interested in whether their stance on testing foreign goods might be bad for business...

    3. F - it looks like you're on the money:

  2. What a hollow ring UD's statement has. Unfortunately people may avoid their products for a while but in general people will forget and continue buy.

    This world is consumed with greed.

    I read on a daily basis examples of china's appalling violations of human and animal rights. If it was realistically possible for me to veto all products produced in China I would, I really dislike their ethics.

    Who for example would ever dream of purchasing illegal ivory, who would rather see a carved monstrosity on their mantlepiece than a magnificent elephant living! As 90% of the demand for illegal ivory comes from China it would seem a very large proportion of their population.

    Urban Decay's decision truly saddens me, clearly not really a company who are compassionate or ethical.

  3. I will never buy Urban Decay or Too Faced again...

  4. This is the age of the U turn. I won't buy UD but so what? Even if they lose Western business, it's a gamble that, if it pays off, they could earn millions of new customers without any of those silly scruples or tiresome cruelty free nonsense. Funny how a brand that was all about innovation suddenly became all about the money.

  5. Deeply, genuinely disappointed. I only 'discovered' UD in the last couple of years and *lovelovelove* their products - one of the few ranges to offer really long-lasting wear in both classic and modern colours/textures, and cruelty-free.
    Don't think I'll be able to stomach buying UD in the future although realise what a futile gesture this is in the face of the unstoppable tsunami of capitalism and the rise of the Chinese market :o(
    Depressing news indeed.


  6. I'm not sure whether they actually think they're going to change anything or whether they are making excuses. Either way, it's disappointing. At a personal level I'm not affected as I didn't buy their stuff due to the comparatively high prices.

  7. I hate the idea of animal testing and it still shocks me that there are so many companies doing it still. But unfortunately I have super sensitive skin so I tend to buy products that work for me regardless but I always kept looking for replacements if I knew the ethics behing the product were questionable. Seems like it's time to search for a replacement for UD's eye primer, though that product will be hard to beat.
    It really is a shame they handled the situation so badly too! Kinda ironic that they corrupted their ethics in order to make more money and they have potentially lost some.


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