China takes new step toward animal-free cosmetics testing

China has made a move towards animal-free testing this week – raising hopes that one day the country will become cruelty-free when it comes to cosmetics.

The Chinese government signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the nonprofit Institute for In Vitro Sciences, Inc. (IIVS)—which helps industry and governments internationally accept innovative non-animal tests—to continue and expand this work in China.

According to animal rights charity PETA, it has been behind the scenes, working to encourage the move.

A spokesperson said: “Back in 2012, PETA discovered that some formerly cruelty-free cosmetics companies—including Avon, Estée Lauder, Mary Kay, and others—had begun paying for animal tests after they expanded into the Chinese market. PETA learned that the Chinese government required cosmetics companies to foot the bill for these cruel and deadly poisoning tests on animals for all cosmetics products sold in the country.

“PETA learned that the Chinese government required cosmetics companies to foot the bill for these cruel and deadly poisoning tests on animals for all cosmetics products sold in the country.

“After we exposed the companies for their serious ethical backsliding, we awarded a grant to IIVS so that its expert scientists could travel to China to offer their expertise and guidance in replacing animal tests—which are cruel and unreliable—with non-animal methods. IIVS, which also garnered support from some cosmetics companies, has made great progress.”

Under the MOU, while IIVS continues to provide scientists and government leaders with training on non-animal test methods, the two groups will start working together on other projects, such as workshops with provincial food and drug control leaders, many of whom are cosmetics safety reviewers.

It is hoped these efforts will help build confidence in animal-free methods and accelerate their acceptance by Chinese officials.

Cosmetics testing in China involves the painful eye irritancy test—in which substances are dripped into rabbits’ eyes, causing redness, swelling, discharge, ulceration, hemorrhaging, cloudiness, and even blindness.

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