This is a really difficult post to write. I am here to say that I believe I was wrong about post-market testing in China. This may be an unpopular opinion because several voices in the cruelty-free community disagree. But, based on the information I have now, I now believe that some beauty brands that sell in China are cruelty-free.
Based on my talks with nonprofits, brands and consultants in China (see resources at the end of this post), I now believe that post-market testing in China is very unlikely, and furthermore it’s possible that it could happen in the US or ANY country (although not likely).
I think First Aid Beauty, Physicians Formula, Wet N Wild and several other brands who sell in China ARE cruelty-free after all…
What’s the deal with post-market testing?
Let me explain. After researching for several months I now believe that the risk of post-market animal testing in China is low-risk, but not much different from the US or the EU (which is to say very low but possible in ANY country).
So if you are avoiding a brand because they may be subject to post-market testing in China, you would also have to avoid any brand sold in the US or EU (or any country) because they may also be subject to post-market testing by regulators, authorities or academia (who are generally exempt from any animal testing bans).
And by the way, the US does NOT have a ban on animal testing yet! There are some bans in certain states (like California) but without a national ban, I think all that really does is set a good precedent for future laws. I can tell you that there are a lot of loopholes and non-cruelty-free brands are still sold here in California. It seems that a lot of animal testing is being done at the ingredient level (by ingredient suppliers – not by brands themselves), and it is often mandated by national governments (more on that below).
So if post-market testing is unlikely (and also possible in any country), that means several PETA-approved brands such as First Aid Beauty, Wet n Wild, Physicians Formula and others are going back on my cruelty-free list. The Leaping Bunny pilot program brands (like Bulldog Skincare) were already on my “good” list.
I realize this is a touchy subject and hotly debated in the cruelty-free community. I do not post this lightly. I have no agenda here – I am just trying to sort through all of the spin and opinions and get down to the facts
I know it’s hard when you’ve held a belief for a long time and then new information challenges your perception. Trust me – I know. Even though we’ve previously thought of certain brands as “bad” (like CoverGirl, for example, which is now Leaping Bunny certified), we have to appreciate when they actually listen to us and change their ways.
So, are all brands that sell in China cruelty-free?
No. I want to be VERY clear that I am NOT saying all brands that sell in China are cruelty-free. They have to jump through hoops in order to avoid PRE-market testing. That has become easier in the last couple of years but it’s still not easy. Not every brand is willing to do it. I’m only saying that I don’t believe POST-market testing is likely (more on this below). And it’s also possible (and has happened) in the US and the EU.
There are still brands who sell in China, who have animal tests on file (as part of China’s public record) such as MAC, NARS and Kiehls.
Thoughts on First Aid Beauty and Post-Market Testing
First Aid Beauty originally reached out to me (and several other cruelty-free bloggers) to announce that they would be selling in China next month. This was their original announcement:
We wanted you to be among the first to know that First Aid Beauty will begin selling a select assortment of products in mainland China next month. We have worked closely with PETA and other resources to make sure that we are doing so in a way that allows us to maintain our Cruelty-Free status. We will be shipping our bulk product to be filled in a facility within China, and under this approach, the Chinese government does not require animal testing. Please see our statement of support from PETA below:
“PETA is very pleased to have First Aid Beauty on our Cruelty-Free list, and we are happy to report that the brand will maintain its no animal test status as it expands to China. We’ve worked with the company to ensure that the products as manufactured and sold will not require tests on animals under Chinese government regulations.” – PETA
We are proud to bring First Aid Beauty products to the people of China in a way that stays true to our brand ethics and upholds the highest quality standards. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
After voicing my concerns about post-market testing (which I already believed to be low-risk, but possible), they replied with this:
Thank you so much for sharing your concerns, we have shared them with the team. We take our Cruelty-Free status very seriously and have worked closely with many regulatory and animal rights experts as we planned our expansion into China. These experts have confirmed that, unlike with pre-market registration, that there is no law mandating post-market surveillance testing and, in fact, it is highly unlikely to happen, especially to products with proven safety records. They have also shared that any authority or safety official, in any country around the world, has the right to pull products from the shelf for safety purposes and test them however they choose (including on animals), so this is not unique to China. First Aid Beauty products go through extensive safety testing, meeting or exceeding global and local standards. For this reason, we have full confidence that post-market surveillance testing will not happen to First Aid Beauty products in China or anywhere in the world.
After a few emails, they asked if I would speak to them on a phone call. Anyone who knows me knows that I rarely take phone calls for anyone! But this is too important, and I needed more information.
I had a long call with First Aid Beauty’s national and international team members (including P&G’s Director Scientific Communications & Animal Welfare Advocacy), and after a lot of soul-searching and discussions with MANY others in the industry (you can see some in the resources section below – but many wanted to stay off the record), I became convinced that the brand is, and will remain, cruelty-free.
Is post-market testing happening in the EU and US?
The First Aid Beauty team confirmed what I suspected – that in the EU, US and China, regulatory agencies, government authorities and the academic community (scientists, researchers) are EXEMPT from animal testing laws.
That means they can pull products from shelves and test them at any time. It’s very rare and isn’t happening often, but it HAS happened in the EU (after the EU’s finished product animal testing ban went into effect). A team of researchers in the EU actually published the results of their hair dye allergy study (with boxed dye pulled directly from the shelves) in a peer-reviewed journal. You can view it here.
I don’t know if it has happened in the US, but it CAN, and that’s kind of the point. It is just as likely to happen here as it is in China. It’s hard to know how much post-market testing has been done in the US because mice and rats are exempt from the animal welfare act, and animal tests done on them are not required to be reported.
Is post-market testing being done in China?
I’ve also learned from a consultant in China that no post-market testing has been done in China in the last few years (it’s all public record), and the main reasons are that it’s too expensive and the results take too long. In the event of a complaint, they would rather gather non-animal-testing data from the brands directly and do human patch tests and things of that nature.
In addition, brands would be contacted first in the event of a complaint and asked for additional safety data (the company would be able to decide if that was an animal or non-animal test). The authorities would have the option to do additional animal tests at that point, but the public record shows that that just isn’t happening. It still COULD happen, but it could happen anywhere.
So if a brand doesn’t sell “special use products” and does the final packaging in China, they can avoid PRE-market testing. The likelihood of post-market testing is so slim, and the same in ANY country, not just China. Therefore, I don’t see why we would consider First Aid Beauty or Wet n Wild to be non-cruelty-free, but not hold all of the brands in the US to the same standard.
It’s not a black and white issue, but I do believe the brands mentioned (First Aid Beauty and others) are cruelty-free. By that logic and standard, all of the PETA-approved and Leaping Bunny-approved brands selling in China (who are avoiding pre-market testing) are also cruelty-free.
What about brands who previously tested on animals and are now certified cruelty-free?
There are also brands who previously conducted animal tests, but haven’t done so for years and have now committed to never conduct animal tests in the future (and only buy from ingredient suppliers who do not test on animals). Among those who are PETA or Leaping Bunny certified: Suave, Dove, Secret, Herbal Essences and CoverGirl.
So is animal testing no longer an issue?
It’s still a HUGE issue! Let me be clear. We STILL need to be vigilant and convince our own governments and MANY brands out there that animal testing is unnecessary, archaic, and cruel, and that we won’t stand for it. I just want to make sure we are targeting the right “enemies” and I think those are mainly at the government level (REACH in the EU and the Toxic Substances Control Act run by the EPA in the US), but also include many brands who still don’t listen to their customers.
Doing my best to keep you updated on the facts
And ALL of that being said, it’s always possible that if new information is brought to light, I could change my mind again. I will always be forthcoming with you and explain WHY I put a brand in the naughty or nice lists. I think it’s extremely important to be open-minded and not rigid in my thinking. Sometimes I don’t have all the facts, and who knows – that could still be the case now. But, based on what I know now, and based on how policies have changed in China over the past several years (they actually have made a lot of progress), this makes the most sense to me.
I elaborated on this topic in my Beauty Bunnies group on Facebook, and if you’d like to join the discussion and ask questions or add commentary, you can do that here. There’s also a healthy discussion going on in the Phyrra group.
Additional resources and organizations that I have had discussions with:
Kundsen & Co
Institute for In Vitro Sciences
PETA Beauty Without Bunnies Program
Cruelty Free Blogger – Phyrra
EU post-market animal testing example
FDA and Animal Testing in the US