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Hong Kong urged to set an example in banning animal testing in cosmetics

By Michelle Yeomans , 20-Nov-2012
Last updated on 03-May-2013 at 11:14 GMT

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) has called on the city to impose what it calls a 'blanket ban' on cosmetics tested on animals in a bid to set an example to the mainland.

Currently, animal-tested cosmetics are permitted on Hong Kong's markets with only a handful of labels said to be free from animal testing.

Whilst visiting the city last week, director of policy at BUAV, Dr. Nick Palmer announced he would like to see the city adopt legislation for ‘cruelty-free’ beauty products to match the European standard.

In February 2003, the European Union agreed a continent-wide ban on testing cosmetics on animals. The first stage of the ban came into effect in 2009 and the last stage, which is the sale and marketing ban of new animal-tested cosmetics, is due to come into effect next year.

Industry point of view

In light of Palmer's announcement, the industry responded by stating that such a ban could cost Hong Kong up to billions of dollars in lost income if tourists were forced to travel elsewhere or shop online to find the products they want.

And while industry professionals like Gordon Chalmers of Australia-based Jasmin Skincare agree that alternatives such as the use of artificial skin and computer technology provide the way forward - this suggested ban in particular, although seemingly ‘ethically correct’, may not necessarily be commercially viable.

"This would drive tourists out of Hong Kong to do online shopping or to other places like Singapore to buy the beauty products they want,” adds Chalmers.

Whilst April Guo, Regulatory Affairs Specialist at CIRS China reckons law makers in Hong Kong are more liberal than politicians in mainland China, her concern is that; "The animal ban might reduce the number of available cosmetic brands and inevitably affect the competitiveness of cosmetics sector in Hong Kong."

"Right now we think that both mainland China & Hong Kong will not take any move until the effectiveness of a total animal test ban in EU to improve competitiveness and ensure product safety has been proved in 2013 & 2014," she adds. 

China is working on making a change…

Despite its current insistance that cosmetics go through animal testing procedures before going to market, Chinese officals have been making steps towards its first ever non-animal test method, and are in the final stages of approving the ‘3T3 Neutral Red Uptake Phototoxicity Assay’.

Dr. Brian Jones of the Institute of the In Vitro Sciences (IIVS), head of the team who played an intricate part in persuading the country to take on the alternative, told Cosmetics Design that; “From my experience, China is very interested in alternatives. They are cautious and careful about wanting to make any changes to protect consumers, but I think when they see something that works well they act on it and do so quickly.”

He further noted that the country just needed the education and opportunity to understand the methods; "I think they may surprise us on how quickly they accept these methods – who knows, they may be as quick if not quicker than the West.”

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