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Save Cruelty-Free Cosmetics: Commit to a Europe without Animal Testing


Dr. Julia Fentem, Global Head of Safety, Environmental & Regulatory Sciences, provides her perspective on recent events ahead of the EU Commission response to the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) “Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics —Commit to a Europe without Animal Testing”

Dr Julia Fentem presenting at the FRAME Annual Lecture 2022

As a leading advocate and pioneer for using cutting edge non-animal science to design safe and sustainable chemicals & products, Unilever has been a strong champion for the European Citizens Initiative (Opens in a pop-up window ) (ECI) “Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics —Commit to a Europe without Animal Testing” over the past two years.

In January 2023, it reached more than 1.2 million validated signatures.

After an initial meeting between the ECI organizers and the European Commission, an open hearing (Opens in a pop-up window ) was held by the Committees of the European Parliament on 25th May.

Unilever’s Dr. Julia Fentem was invited to speak about ending all animal testing for cosmetics ingredients, alongside Dr. Julia Baines from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).The formal response and action plan from the European Commission must be made public by 25th July 2023.

The EU cosmetics testing ban in 2009 was an important stimulus for big advances in non-animal safety science and the development of a new toolbox for assessing consumer, worker, and environmental safety, without resorting to new animal testing. Rapid advances in science & technology mean that we can generate more relevant safety data, faster and in larger amounts, using innovative non-animal approaches.

This ECI should be seen in the context of having regulations which promote both better human health & environmental protection and better animal protection.

Unilever hopes that the very high level of support from EU citizens for the ECI means that, as a minimum, relevant EU policies & regulations will be changed so that they facilitate transparency and compliance with the key legislative principle that ‘any animal testing is as a last resort’.

There is now more openness to building new scientific capabilities in non-animal approaches across the industrial and regulatory communities. In its background paper of May 2023 for a workshop on transitioning to an animal-free regulatory system for industrial chemicals, the European Chemicals Agency (Opens in a pop-up window ) stated that “it is possible to develop robust options based on non-animal methods which can provide protection levels comparable or higher than the current ones for many toxicological properties”.

We are at the tipping point for the regulatory use of modern non-animal safety science for chemical registration purposes; a positive and progressive response from the European Commission to the demands of EU citizens is essential.

As a first priority, we must tackle the cosmetics ingredients challenge by the European Commission mandating the use of non-animal approaches for worker and environmental safety as well as for consumer safety. That should have been done 10 years ago, let’s not delay any longer.

Save Cruelty-Free Cosmetics ECI Signed by 1.2 Million People | Unilever

Committees of the European Parliament Hearing: Save Cruelty-Free Cosmetics - Commit to a Europe Without Animal Testing ECI (Opens in a pop-up window )

The 19th Frame Annual Lecture | Safer Chemicals and Sustainable Innovation Will Be Achieved by Regulatory Use of Modern Safety Science, Not by More Animal Testing - Dr Julia Fentem (Opens in a pop-up window )

Sage Publication | Upholding the EU's Commitment to 'Animal Testing as a Last Resort' Under REACH Requires a Paradigm Shift in How We Access Chemical Safety to Close the Gap Between Regulatory Testing and Modern Science - Dr Julia Fentem, Ian Malcomber, Gavin Maxwell, Carl Westmoreland (Opens in a pop-up window )

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