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We achieved a ban on animal testing for cosmetics in the EU!

Main Content:

History of the ban – a long-fought road to victory

History of the ban – a long-fought road to victory

In 1990 the European Coalition to End Cosmetics Tests on Animals (now the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments – ECEAE) was established by leading animal protection organisations across  Europe, specifically to call for a ban on the cruel use of animals to test cosmetics in Europe.  This set in motion a high-profile campaign, symbolised by the iconic, larger-than-life laboratory rabbit Vanity, and widely regarded as one of the most successful European lobbying campaigns ever.  Vanity and her European cousins toured throughout the UK, Denmark, France, Belgium and the Netherlands meeting politicians and attracting a huge amount of public attention to our campaign.

We organised a rally at the Place de la Monnaie in Brussels on 9th November 1991. It was attended by ECEAE members and thousands of supporters arriving in coaches from around the continent and across the Channel. The march was the highlight of two years of intensive political and public campaigning, and culminated in a free concert with folk-rock band The Levellers.

A year later, in 1992, the European Parliament took an historic decision and voted to end cosmetics tests on animals throughout the European Community. However the campaign suffered a number of setbacks – thanks in part to the powerful cosmetics industry which was vehemently opposed to any proposal for a ban at the time. On 3rd November 1993 the European Council of Ministers rejected the European Parliament and Commission proposal to effectively ban the marketing of cosmetics products and ingredients tested on animals after 1st January 1998. It was to take almost 20 years of hard campaigning by the ECEAE to finally achieve this in 2013.

To help consumers make a truly cruelty free choice, in 1997 a coalition of international animal protection organisations, including ECEAE Members, launched the Humane Cosmetics Standard, symbolised by our Leaping Bunny logo which continues to certify brands to this day.  Now, almost 500 cosmetics and household product companies are approved as free from animal testing.

A ban was finally negotiated in the European Union in February 2003 which saw a phased approach agreed.  The first stage was implemented on 11th March 2009, when the 7th amendment to the Cosmetics Directive brought into force two bans, and it became illegal to test cosmetic ingredients on animals anywhere in the EU and to sell or import into the EU any ingredients to be used in cosmetics tested on animals after that date.  However, three types of animal tests were exempt from this until March 2013 in order to allow non-animal alternatives to be validated.

Sadly, it became clear in 2011 that the European Commission’s scientists were set to recommend delaying the final part of the ban for up to ten years to allow alternatives to be developed.  The ECEAE immediately launched our dynamic No Cruel Cosmetics campaign and set about making the case for the ban.  With the support of politicians, cruelty-free cosmetics companies, celebrities and quarter of a million concerned citizens Europe has listened and the ban is set to come into force in March 2013 as promised!

However, the story certainly does not end here. Shockingly over 11 million animals are used in experiments across the EU every year – that’s over 31,500 animals suffering in cruel tests every day. Our work is most definitely not over.  Today we lead campaigning on all animal testing issues in Europe, and are the only organisation solely dedicated to being a voice for animals in EU laboratories. 

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