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High time Canada banned cosmetic testing on animals | Victoria Shroff

Thursday, September 12, 2019 @ 11:01 AM | By Victoria Shroff

Victoria Shroff %>
Victoria Shroff
Twenty-seven European Union countries have already banned cosmetic testing on animals and this was done over a decade ago. Canada could have been number 40 on the world list to ban animal testing for the sake of beauty products, but it wasn’t.

Pam Damoff, parliamentary secretary to the health minister, said on June 3, 2019, that “The humane treatment of animals is undoubtedly a matter that preoccupies many Canadians.”

She made this statement while speaking about Bill S-214, the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, shortly before the bill died.

Of course, humane treatment of animals preoccupies many of us. One need not be an animal law lawyer for 20 years to agree with such a basic statement, but regardless, the bill still died. The aim of the law was to have been the prohibition of cosmetic testing on animals and the sale of cosmetic products which were developed or manufactured using testing on animals.

Damoff made reference to over 630,000 signatures on a petition that the The Body Shop cosmetic retailer gathered. She also noted that the Animal Alliance of Canada and the Humane Society International/Canada commissioned a poll in 2013 which stated that more than 80 per cent of Canadians polled supported the idea of banning cosmetic testing on animals. So why the cosmetic fail when it was on the cusp of becoming law and when the humane treatment of animals matters to Canadians?

Backing up a little, we see that the bill to ban cosmetic testing was not new. Back in 2018, around 12 months before Damoff made her animal friendly pronouncement, the bill, which had originated in the Senate, had already passed third reading where it was lauded with much support from every party.

Backing up further still, it seems that Sen. Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, a Conservative, introduced the bill in 2015, so why was little done in four years and how is it justifiable that in 2019 do we still not have a ban for animal cosmetic testing in Canada?

On June 4, 2019, Liberal MP and friend of animal-centred bills in the past, Nate Erskine-Smith, tweeted, “It is inexplicable that the Conservative sponsor in the House sat on the bill until so late in the parliamentary session that it will now die.”

It is inexplicable. Because the makeup bill took too long to get ready for the big ball, the bill arrived too late in 2019, running out of time before Parliament rose for the break meaning that mice, rats, rabbits and guinea pigs and other hapless testing victims, will unfortunately have to wait while continuing to be unwitting cosmetic test subjects just so someone can wear that oh-so-precise shade of coral-sienna lip liner.

There was no need for this cosmetic bill to go splat. As a nation, we did very well by animals in June 2019 with the passing of some very important animal welfare oriented bills such as banning shark fins, bestiality, cetaceans in captivity, animal fighting.

Since June, whenever I’ve presented on animal law or been discussing with my animal law students about how wonderfully well we did for animals in the spring, I mention the red sore spot — Bill S-214. The bill that should have passed, but instead failed animals in the Commons. (Please see Bill C-84 win for animals, but more is needed and Free Willy bill whale of a win for cetaceans.)  

Cosmetics is a multibillion-dollar industry and many nations still use animal testing. One of the reasons for the dilatory way this bill meandered along may well have been the economic imperative. Huge cosmetic markets in countries like China actually require certain cosmetic ingredients and final products to be tested on animals before they can be put on the market.

Major corporate stakeholder interests desire a loophole in the bill which would allow data obtained via animal testing in other areas such as industrial chemicals, to potentially be utilized in cosmetics.

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu discussed the proposed exemption in June 2019 and stated, “… if we want to sell in China, we have to do animal testing in order to sell the product there.”

Animals used for cosmetic testing are subjected to horrors the likes of which you can’t unsee once you see the pictures. For example, guinea pigs are used as skin sensitization beings meaning that the test potion is smeared over the body of the guinea pig to see if their skin breaks out in boils, ulcers or hives. Mice get shaved and injected with test ingredients to see if inflammation and scaling occur. Rabbits get injections into their eyes while the cosmetics scientist observes for signs of corneal corrosion, scarring, redness. Hard to imagine that only some 80 per cent of Canadians support a ban on cosmetic testing in animals. Why not 100 per cent?

The Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods at the University of Windsor is one of the world centres showing that there are many viable validated alternate methods of testing which utilize science without having to misuse animals to get data. There’s no excuse to use animals to observe chemical reactions.

Giant cosmetic companies can continue to flourish without harming animals by using the many thousands of existing ingredients that have already been tested, instead of purchasing new chemicals that require more testing. We need a law so animals need not be part of a medieval testing structure for makeup companies. Meanwhile, the hapless test animals are waiting in the wings to see what happens next session in Ottawa.

V. Victoria Shroff is one of the first and longest serving animal law practitioners in Canada. She has been practising animal law civil litigation for 20 years in Vancouver at Shroff and Associates (604-891-0209). She is also adjunct professor of law at the Peter Allard School of Law at UBC and has lectured internationally from India to Galiano Island and is frequently interviewed by media. Follow her at @shroffanimallaw or on

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